“Relationships are awful. They’ll kill you, right up to the point where they start saving your life.”
The People We Hate at the Wedding was hilarious! I loved every single moment!
While the book focuses mainly on Paul and Alice, Ginder does an amazing job bringing in the rest of the family through alternating narration to give quite a deep look at the complexity of family. The family ties are complicated, as family ties tend to be.
Eloise, Donna’s daughter from her first failed marriage, was always on the outside of Paul and Alice’s lives. Raised on a trust fund from her father, her interaction with the family was during the summer and on holiday from the fancy European boarding schools she was sent to. It doesn’t help that this trust fund has allowed her to live a cushy adult life. And nothing is more infuriating than the fact that she really is kind and decent. To top it all off, Eloise is now getting married. In England.
Paul and Alice are from Donna’s second marriage. Paul, a gay man in an unhappy relationship, and Alice a single woman, don’t want to go watch their perfect and pampered half-sister live her fairy tale life through this fairy tale wedding. Neither of them want to go, but feel a sense of duty and obligation. Something, I think, a lot people can relate to. Beyond the wedding and the family turmoil attached, they both are struggling through some fairly heavy personal issues. All of this combines to make Eloise’s wedding feel like a personal attack on their own failures and shortcomings. Again, completely relatable.
Ginder’s writing is full of the biting sarcastic snark that makes living through dysfunction necessary. It gives it the edge it needs. Without it, you’re left with an angry, sad family full of bad decisions and regret. Ginder gives the story all the sass it needs to take it out of depressing and land it squarely in enjoyable.
Beyond the snark and the dysfunction, there are real gems of advice and life lessons written.
“You don’t ruin anyone’s life. People do that on their own. People ruin their own lives.”
There is a brutal honesty underneath the witty banter. A truth that sometimes we don’t like to hear, or even say out loud. Because if we admit to these things, we may be forced to confront the skeletons living in our own closets. Eloise unwittingly forces Paul and Alice, and even her mother, to examine these skeletons. Though it feels that this family is dysfunctional, there is real love underneath it all.
Families are complicated beasts. We love our families, even if we don’t always particularly like them. We learn things about our spouses and our parents and our siblings that sometimes makes it difficult to reconcile with the ideas we have of them.
“The hardest part of a relationship isn’t staying with the people we love — it’s actually getting to know them.”
These observations are the true brilliance in this book. How sometimes we do things to protect them, even if they don’t understand, or want the protection. This book examines the little white lies, and even the great big lies we tell our children, our parents, our siblings, our spouses, and even the lies we tell ourselves. It examines them and discusses what those lies do to us. Sometimes they help, but most often they hurt.
It’s true that Paul and Alice aren’t very likable people. But Ginder isn’t trying to make them likable. In fact, they know they aren’t likable. They certainly don’t like themselves very much. This isn’t a book about a wedding. It’s a book about family. About what happens when we let the ties that hold us together fray to the point of breaking. Can a family recover from that? And if so, how?
“Never expect someone to change, because he won’t. If you don’t love someone at his worst, you shouldn’t bother loving him at all.”
It should be easy to ask family to love us unconditionally. To accept us as we are, to continue loving us no matter what horrible thing we throw their way. It should be easy, but most of the time, it isn’t. It’s hard. And leads to repressed unhappiness and resentments. The People We Hate at the Wedding forces us to look at these questions. It makes us ask ourselves what we would do, how we would act.
Family is messy, but it is also beautiful. Even in all it’s dysfunction, Alice and Paul and Eloise all want the best for each other. For all the snark, and sarcasm, I found myself tearing up at the end. It isn’t about the ending, because family never ends. Weddings are a beginning, not an ending. And so, this wedding, that no one wanted to attend, that was full of people they wanted to hate, is the perfect setting for this family, and this book.
If you love smart humor with a bite, I would highly recommend picking this up. It is funny and touching. I should warn, there is a lot of language. Personally, I like the use of sentence enhancers, especially given the personalities in this book. However, it is frequent, and it might be a bit much for someone with a distaste for those words. In addition, there are scenes that are a bit graphic and can seem brutally insensitive. There is a certain sense of humor in this book, which not everyone may enjoy.
I am not dissuaded by language or graphic scenes or even insensitivity, so I will rave that I loved this book! It is easily one of my favorites of the year.
Thank you to BookSparks and Flatiron books for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.