Bee Evans is determined that all who attend her lavish Annapolis wedding will have a great time — and that means allowing every guest to have a “plus one.” Former college friends, acquaintances and current best buddies are all encouraged to bring a date — but a few hold-outs are coming solo.
Irked by the trouble that causes her seating chart, Bee tries to artfully sprinkle “the singles” at various tables . . . and Hannah, Vicki, Rob, Joe and Nancy, all who have RSVP’ed minus a significant other, have quite the stories to tell.
Meredith Goldstein’s The Singles, a humorous and often dry look at love and its endless pursuit, is a quick read that anyone forced to attend a friend’s nuptials alone will appreciate. When it seems our friends are all coupling up, settling down and leaving us behind, Bee’s buddies band into an unlikely group to recall their college friendships, career misdirections and several other catastrophes along the way.
When I started the book, I was initially nervous that Goldstein’s debut would suffer from the dreaded Too Many Characters-itis. I mean, on the surface, it seems like it completely would. We’re talking a real motley crew of people here, folks, and that listing above doesn’t include many other peripheral characters or Phil, Nancy’s son, who actually winds up attending the wedding in her stead. That’s a ton of people.
It’s a testament to Goldstein, then, that I could actively recall every person in this book without referring to any notes. I can recall their colorful back stories, too, and the circumstances that brought them to Annapolis, Md., to see Bee marry Matt, her nondescript husband. Strangely, though, the couple exchanging vows are the ones I felt I knew the least. The groom is nothing more than a prop. And that’s fine; I mean, I get it. The book is really about friendship and the links between the singles, not the happy couple. Still.
Casting director Hannah was probably my favorite character. If anyone out there watches the fabulously hilarious and underrated “Happy Endings” on ABC, she completely reminded me of Penny. She’s that friend who just can’t get her act together and has too many quirks to mention, yet you can’t help but love her — and want to protect her. She arrives at Bee’s wedding frightened of seeing her ex-boyfriend, the one who just about broke her; he’s coming with his new girlfriend, of course, leaving Hannah/Penny to stave off her anxiety in a way that makes her unintentionally crazy. While I really felt for her and hoped she would abandon the Crazy Train, I couldn’t help but be amused. Who hasn’t faced an ex with a sense of dread and excitement?
Being a Maryland girl myself, the Annapolis setting piqued my interest. References to the Naval Academy, local bed and breakfasts and Maryland’s famous seafood made my local heart jump for joy. I definitely got a feel for the coastal, breezy wedding Bee was going for, and liked that Maryland featured so prominently in the book. It seems like much of what I read favors the bright lights of Manhattan or glitzy London, so reading about our capital was great for this crab lover.
Fast-paced and fun, The Singles takes place over the course of one weekend. Everyone arrives with a hefty amount of emotional baggage, and most carry a sense of uncertainty about where life will take them next. I like that the novel didn’t offer easy answers, and things weren’t sealed and clean by the end. Goldstein didn’t pair off her bumbling characters, having each magically find love or redemption. What was messy did, for the most part, stay messy.
Still, there was a hopeful chord struck by the end that I really appreciated — and I think fans of women’s fiction and novels on friendship, love and starting over will appreciate The Singles. It’s a light, quick read that resonated with me, and readers who enjoy short character studies and vignettes will appreciate Goldstein’s storytelling and attention to detail.
3.5 out of 5!