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Extended Audio Sample Seating Arrangements, by Maggie Shipstead Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (5,490 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Maggie Shipstead Narrator: Arthur Morey Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Winn Van Meter is heading for his family’s retreat on the pristine New England island of Waskeke. Normally a haven of calm, for the next three days this sanctuary will be overrun by tipsy revelers as Winn prepares for the marriage of his daughter Daphne to the affable young scion Greyson Duff.  Winn’s wife, Biddy, has planned the wedding with military precision, but arrangements are sideswept by a storm of salacious misbehavior and intractable lust: Daphne’s sister, Livia, who has recently had her heart broken by Teddy Fenn, the son of her father’s oldest rival, is an eager target for the seductive wiles of Greyson’s best man; Winn, instead of reveling in his patriarchal duties, is tormented by his long-standing crush on Daphne’s beguiling bridesmaid Agatha; and the bride and groom find themselves presiding over a spectacle of misplaced desire, marital infidelity, and monumental loss of faith in the rituals of American life.

Hilarious, keenly intelligent, and commandingly well written, Shipstead’s deceptively frothy first novel is a piercing rumination on desire, on love and its obligations, and on the dangers of leading an inauthentic life, heralding the debut of an exciting new literary voice. 

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Beneath the surface of this summery romp lie animosities, well-paced sexual suspense, and a clash between appearances and authenticity…Waltzlike.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Shipstead’s weave of wit and observation continually delights. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday she trades her Lilly Pulitzer for something from Joseph Pulitzer.”

    Washington Post

  • Seating Arrangements delightfully and poignantly upends the WASP idyll…Sparkles while it slays.”

    USA Today

  • “Whipsmart and engaging.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • “A wickedly clever tragicomedy of manners that unfolds with the plotting of a juicy mystery and the sharp eye of someone only too aware of the subtle, seemingly pointless class distinctions within the one percent.”

    Slate

  • “Shipstead seems at home in the Waspy milieu of private schools and their preening, privileged attendees…A keen-eyed rendering of America’s self-invented caste.”

    New Yorker

  • “This is one of those rare debut novels that neither forsakes plot for language nor language for plot. It is gratifying on every scale.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Dead-on delightful…A champagne-fueled, saltwater-scented comedy of upper-crust New England manners and mores.”

    National Geographic Traveler

  • “A wise, sophisticated and funny novel about family, fidelity, class, and crisis.”

    Marie Claire

  • “Elegant, delightful…Shipstead’s sentences simmer and crackle on the page.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “[A] mordant, ferociously clever comedy of manners.”

    Guardian (London)

  • “Delightful…Seating Arrangements brims with sharp observations about love, lust, family, and the real meaning of marital bliss.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “Zestful yet acerbic…For all its madcap quirkiness, Shipstead’s adroit escapade artfully delivers a poignant reflection on the enduring if frustrating nature of love, hope, and family.”

    Booklist

  • “Maggie Shipstead is an outrageously gifted writer, and her assured first novel, Seating Arrangements, is by turns hilarious and deeply moving. Richard Russo, author of That Old Cape Magic

  • Seating Arrangements is bursting with perfectly observed characters and unforgettable scenes. This gorgeous, wise, funny, sprawling novel about family, fidelity, and social class, is the best book I've read in ages. Courtney Sullivan, author of Maine
  • A pitch-perfect debut from a master storyteller, Seating Arrangements is a rich and deep work: a smart, consuming novel that manages also to be delightfully funny. A romp of a book, with whales and weddings and wealth, it is, at its heart, a warning against the empty seductions of status and exclusivity. Justin Torres, author of We the Animals
  • Smart and frothy…Beneath the surface of this summery romp lie animosities, well-paced sexual suspense and a clash between appearances and authenticity…waltzlike. New York Times Book Review
  • A sophisticated summer romp...Shipstead's weave of wit and observation continually delights. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday she trades her Lilly Pulitzer for something from Joseph Pulitzer. Washington Post
  • "Whipsmart and engaging...the best kind of smart beach read. O Magazine
  • Dead-on delightful…a champagne-fueled, saltwater-scented comedy of upper-crust New England manners and mores. National Geographic Traveler
  • Irresistible [and] joyously good. Daily Mail (UK)

    “Elegant, delightful…Shipstead’s sentences simmer and crackle on the page.
  • This is one of those rare debut novels that neither forsakes plot for language nor language for plot. It is gratifying on every scale…The novel is teeming with the sort of casual philosophizing that encourages passage-underlining and earnest recommendation. The Boston Globe
  • Funny and dark and poignant—sometimes all at once. Shisptead is a gifted storyteller whose richly realized characters and sweetly flowing prose coalesce into a tale that is by parts sweet and sharp, humorous and heartbreaking. It’s an auspicious debut by an undeniably talented writer. The Maine Edge
  • Zestful yet acerbic…for all its madcap quirkiness, Shipstead’s adroit escapade artfully delivers a poignant reflection on the enduring if frustrating nature of love, hope, and family. Booklist
     
  • Vibrant prose and moments of keen insight. Publishers Weekly
  • Delightful…Shipstead writes with clarity and confidence, nimbly dropping into multiple characters’ heads, giving each a distinct voice and point of view but always with great wit and heart. Seating Arrangements brims with sharp observations about love, lust, family, and the real meaning of marital bliss. Entertainment Weekly, A- review
     
  • Impressive…Shipstead’s characters…feel totally true to life. People, Style Watch
  • Shipstead seems at home in the Waspy milieu of private schools and their preening, privileged attendees…a keen-eyed rendering of America’s self-invented caste, its members’ revelry in an illusory ‘axis of perfect exclusivity’ and their pitiful strivings ‘to be aristocrats’ in a country that was built on anti-aristocratic conventions. The New Yorker
  • Seating Arrangements delightfully and poignantly upends the WASP idyll, poking holes into the studiously shabby carpets to reveal the limitations of a privileged world that revolves around the same plummy prep-school pedigrees, club memberships and summer havens…through prose that sparkles while it slays. USA Today
  • By turns poignant and laugh-out-loud funny (thanks to Shipstead’s gimlet eye and terrific comic timing), Seating Arrangements is a tremendous debut. Everydayebook
  • A wedding held at a family retreat off the New England coast explodes into a weekend of deliciously scandalous behavior. Parade 2012 Summer Reading Guide
  • Told from the wry perspective of the father of the (very pregnant) bride, this spicy debut tracks the goings-on at a Cape Cod wedding where endless drama unfolds. Real Simple, Addictive Summer Novels
  • In Shipstead’s talented hands this WASP wedding weekend becomes the perfect occasion for a pointed social satire that is both a comedy of manners and a thoughtful reflection on the things that matter most in life—family, marriage, and status. At once laugh-out-loud funny and emotionally compelling, Seating Arrangements marks the arrival of an exceptional new voice. Examiner.com
     
  • A wonderfully juicy, frothy and delightful story of a family reunited on a small New England island during a wedding…Shipstead executes the genre perfectly. Cape Cod Times
     
  • [Shipstead’s] book places a magnifying glass over classic New England upper-crust culture…excellent character development and family intrigues galore. Whether reading Seating Arrangements is like looking into a mirror or peeking through the window, the gin-soaked escapades are difficult to turn away from. The Phoenix (Portland, ME)
  • A delicious comedy of manners, set on a New England island, that has fun with all things rich, all things wedding and all things inappropriate. Asbury Park Press
  • “[Seating Arrangements] is really good, funny, and so involving. It’s so well observed, and I couldn’t believe it was written by a 29-year-old author, and that she’s not from a Northeastern WASP family. She captured all these people who are in a different generation from her. R.L. Stine, author of Goosebumps series
     
    “This debut novel is just as full of startling insights as it is of voyeuristic intrigue.
  • “Told from the perspective of the father of the bride, this novel encompasses family, scandal, humor, and a heck of an East Coast beach house that we want to go to! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll cringe at the raw family dynamics that comprise this social satire. FabFitFun

  • Winner of the 2012 Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Prize for First Fiction
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A 2012 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize Finalist
  • Selected for the June 2012 Indie Next List
  • A 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book for Fiction
  • A 2012 Barnes & Noble Best Book
  • A Barnes & Noble Recommends Selection

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Jennifer | 2/7/2014

    " They don't call these people the Chosen Frozen for nothing. The setting is a more or less contemporary W.A.S.P. wedding at the bride's family's summer house on a Martha's Vinyardy island. The kids attended daddy's prep school and are immediately comfortable in daddy's and grandfather's ivy universities and clubs. (Not that they'd ever refer to the rents as "Daddy.") In fact the setting was so familiar to me from my '60s and '70s summers on the Cape that it wasn't until I realized that none of the women were wearing Pappagallo flats and one of the wedding guests was fiddling with her iphone that I was sure the main thread of the story was not a flashback. Of course, these people aren't quite what they seem either. The understated, ever so slightly shabby old home is not the ancestral cottage, and there's a whole lot of striving--sexual and otherwise--underneath the studied causualness. Recommended as a social satire for beach readers. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Sarah | 1/26/2014

    " This is an excellent depiction of a Waspy summer wedding, lots of familial conflict and character study. I enjoyed it... "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Vanessa | 1/26/2014

    " Ehhh. Not sure what all the hype was about. The book often didn't read like satire. At times I felt like the author really believed in her asinine characters. I found myself rolling my eyes as I read further. I continued reading because I was always hoping for more but the story never got any deeper just more & more inane. To those who compared the book to The Corrections - not even close. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Cathy | 1/19/2014

    " Love this three-day drama of two families gathering for a wedding and the drama and humor that ensues. "

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