Meryl Becker is living a mother's dream. The oldest of her three beautiful daughters, Meg, is engaged to a wonderful man from one of the country's most prominent families. Of course, Meryl wants to give Meg the perfect wedding. Who wouldn't? But when her two younger daughters, Amy and Jo, also become engaged to celebrated bachelors, Meryl has to admit that three weddings is more than she and her husband, Hugh, can realistically afford.
The solution? A triple wedding! At first, it's a tough sell to the girls, and juggling three sets of future in-laws is a logistical nightmare. But when Hugh loses his teaching job, and Meryl's aging mother suddenly moves in with them, a triple wedding is the only way to get all three sisters down the aisle. When the grand plan becomes public, the onslaught of media attention adds to Meryl's mounting pressure. Suddenly, appearances are everything - and she will do whatever it takes to keep the wedding on track as money gets tight, her mother starts acting nutty, and her own thirty year marriage starts to unravel.
In the weeks leading up to the nuptials, secrets are revealed, passions ignite, and surprising revelations show Meryl and her daughters the true meaning of love, marriage and family. Jamie Brenner's The Wedding Sisters invites readers to the most unpredictable wedding of the year.
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The Wedding Sisters
By Jamie Brenner
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Jamie Brenner
All rights reserved.
It was an "all hands on deck" kind of night. At least that's how it felt to Meryl. Unfortunately, judging by everyone else in her family, she would be doing the heavy lifting alone.
It was only noon, but in her nervous excitement, Meryl couldn't wait to set the table with the good dishes. She hated to put too much pressure on this dinner, but she felt an overwhelming sense that everything had to be absolutely perfect. She couldn't help but fuss.
"Remember, honey, it's not about you," Hugh had said on his way out the door earlier that morning, a comment that both rankled her and served as useful caution.
"I'm doing this for Meg," she had responded in a huff.
He had kissed her on the forehead with a knowing smile, squeezing her hand.
They were finally meeting the parents of the man her daughter was going to marry. Meryl had read up on them in the New York Times and Vanity Fair, even seen them on CNN, but that had only served to make her ill at ease. They're just people, she reminded herself. And we're going to be family.
She dialed her mother's cell phone despite the odds being that she wouldn't answer. At eighty-six, her mother did not embrace technology and she made no apologies for it. Still, Meryl felt more comfortable knowing she had a cell phone, though in that particular moment, it served only to increase her frustration.
"Mother, it's me. I just want to make sure you'll be ready for me to pick you up at three for the dinner tonight? Please. It's important to us."
She hesitated, wondering if she should sign off with "I love you" or "Looking forward to seeing you." But that's not how they spoke to one another, and it would seem odd to tack it on now — desperate. As though Meryl needed her there tonight. Except, she did. Meryl hoped beyond hope that, for just one night, they could seem like a normal family. If not for her own sake, then for her daughter's.
That was the thing about weddings: they forced family members to deal with one another, like it or not.
Meryl drew back the dining room curtains and gazed out at the East River. The view was the best thing about their apartment, her favorite part of her home of the past twenty years. She always found it so calming. Meryl couldn't imagine living anywhere in Manhattan without a view of the water. But then, there had been a time when she couldn't imagine the girls being grown up and gone from the nest. And now it was normal not to see them for weeks at a time. More and more lately, it was as if Meryl needed an excuse to see them — to tear them away from their very busy lives.
She missed them.
Meg, Amy, and Jo. Named for the heroines of their father's favorite Louisa May Alcott novel, the much-cherished book that had set the course for his entire professional career — and their romantic life, if she was being honest.
Carrying the names of literature's most beloved sisters was a lot to live up to, but Meryl felt that her girls did the originals justice. They had equally as distinct personalities — Meg, the easy daughter. Amy, endlessly dissatisfied. And Jo, the rebellious tomboy with the world's biggest heart.
Meryl found it infinitely fascinating to watch them clash with and complement one another as they grew up, in a constant primal dance of love and hate, envy and unconditional love. Meryl was an only child, and she took immense joy in bearing witness to sisterhood. She had often felt lonely as a child, much the way she did now.
If only it wasn't so difficult these days to get them all in one damn place.
She used to be able to rely on Amy to show up regularly. Amy, who still craved Meryl's undivided attention. But even that was coming to an end; a few weeks ago, when Meryl invited Amy and her boyfriend to their standing Sunday night dinner, Amy had begged off, saying she and Andy were staying an extra night in East Hampton. They never rescheduled.
Amy's boyfriend was the son of fashion designer Jeffrey Bruce, and Amy was living what — at least to Meryl — seemed to be a very glamorous life, working for the company and traveling the world for industry events. Yet despite all of it, Meryl knew Amy was still playing catch-up to her older sister, Meg.
Meg, Amy felt, was the favorite, the perfect daughter, the one for whom everything came too easily. At the same time, Amy secretly worshipped her. It was a dynamic Meryl had hoped would change as Amy grew older and more confident — when she created an identity for herself outside of being one of the Becker sisters. But so far, no such luck.
Lately, Meryl felt something close to panic. She knew it was irrational, but she felt motherhood slipping away from her. And what was she if not a mother? Was this how it would be from now on? An occasional phone call. Seeing the girls here and there, a family dinner maybe once a year? Unfortunately, she made the tactical error of expressing her disappointment to Amy one night, at which Amy had scoffed and said, "Oh please, Mom. It's not like you even really cook."
This wounded Meryl deeply in ways she couldn't fully pinpoint. True, she didn't cook — but wasn't it about spending time together?
Her cell phone rang. Meg.
"Hi, Mom! Where are you?"
"Home, sweetheart. Where are you?"
"Just got into the city."
"I thought you couldn't leave D.C. until late this morning?"
A pause. "We didn't. But instead of driving, Stowe's dad brought us in the helicopter."
"Well. That's one way to beat the GW Bridge traffic!" Meryl laughed, trying to make light of it, but the truth was, she was uncomfortable with the prominence and extraordinary wealth of her soon-to-be in-laws.
Meg's fiancé, Stowe Campion, was the scion of a Philadelphia steel dynasty. And his billionaire father, Reed, was a Republican senator in Pennsylvania. Republican!
"Reed has a last-minute work event tonight," Meg added sheepishly. "Tippy wants to meet up with him after dinner. Is it okay if we come a little early?"
"Wait — Reed isn't coming tonight?" These people were unbelievable. A work event was more important than meeting the parents of their future daughter-in-law? They had a wedding to discuss, for God's sake. It was bad enough that the Campions had rebuffed every overture Meryl made during the last year. She understood they were busy. But this? Well, it was what her mother would call "insult to injury." And for once, her mother would be right.
"I'm sorry, Mom! I am. He feels really bad, and we'll definitely see him another time. But for tonight, a little earlier ... okay?"
"No problem," Meryl said, trying to sound nonchalant. Her timeline was now officially screwed up.
And she still had to pick up her mother — never an easy feat.
"What can we bring?"
"Just yourselves," Meryl said in a singsong voice that sounded foreign even to herself.
Well, at least she would finally meet Tippy.
Before Meryl Googled her, she had imagined Stowe's mother, Tippy, to look like Barbara Bush: no-nonsense, sturdy, all-white hair, and pearls. But while Barbara Bush's whole life was etched on her face, Tippy Campion had the smooth, age-defying complexion of the obscenely rich. A face that, after a certain age, could be achieved only through a regimen of chemical peels and Botox and filler and other things that Meryl probably couldn't imagine. Tippy had buttery blond hair and a lithe frame that was always dressed in Tory Burch (daytime) and St. John (evening). She was beautiful; not a former, faded beauty, but a contender, even now. And her husband, Reed, had movie-star good looks that had translated faithfully to his son. It was no wonder the media was fascinated with them.
Meryl put her phone in her bag and rushed out to East End Avenue to grab a cab across town to her mother's. There wasn't time to wait for the M79 bus. She dialed her mother's landline and was relieved when the home health aide, Oona, answered.
"I'm on my way now, Oona. Can you please have my mother ready? Sorry — it's earlier than I said originally, I know."
Hiring the home health aides had been an extravagance, but also, as Meryl had rationalized to Hugh, a necessity. When her father died ten years ago, she didn't want her mother living alone, even though she seemed relatively healthy and capable. Unfortunately, moving in with them was entirely out of the question, since her mother and Hugh were oil and water. And Rose would never have agreed to move into an assisted living facility, and truthfully, she didn't need one. The home health aide seemed like the perfect compromise. Regrettably, there had been an almost semiannual rotation of nurses. Her mother fired them all. Oona, eight months on the job, seemed to be the most promising, and Meryl had high hopes they could make it to the twelve-month mark.
"She told me to tell you she don't want to go, Mrs. Becker," Oona said. Her Caribbean accent was musical. It managed to make even this rather undesirable news sound pleasant to Meryl's ears.
"What? Why not?"
"She says you know why not."
"I'll be there in fifteen minutes." Great.
Her phone vibrated. She was surprised to see her husband's number appear on the screen.
Hugh, a twelfth grade English teacher, was usually unreachable between the hours of 8:30 A.M and 3 P.M. every weekday. Once he disappeared behind the granite walls of Yardley, an Upper East Side private school that was arguably more difficult to get into than Harvard, he was happily in his own little universe.
"Hugh? Aren't you at school?"
"Yes — it's lunch."
Of course it was. She was distracted. "Everything all right?"
"It's Janell," he said. "She is really starting to push back when I try to help. It's like she's afraid to fail, and so she's purposely sabotaging herself."
Janell South was Hugh's most promising student so far that year.
Meryl sighed. She hated to be impatient, but she really didn't have time for one of Hugh's student dramas right now, not today.
Hugh prided himself on being a champion for his students, and she had always loved that about him; after all, she had been one herself once. Usually Meryl liked to hear his stories and act as his trusted sounding board. But she didn't have the mental space for Hugh and the Yardley students today. The Campions were coming for dinner. Finally!
"Hugh, I have to call you back," she said. "Or call me back. Or I'll just see you at home later, honey, and I promise we'll talk all about it. Everyone is coming earlier than I thought, and I still have to get my mother."
* * *
Meryl asked the cabdriver to let her off at Seventy-second and Broadway. She'd walk the rest of the way to her mother's West End apartment. Even though she was pressed for time, it was already October, and she couldn't ignore the orange-gold leaves on the ground or the changing light. Fact was, the truly beautiful days were numbered. And she never could resist walking down the block where she had grown up, the spot where her favorite bookstore used to be. Growing up on the Upper West Side — before it was the least bit fashionable or even particularly desirable — Meryl's favorite refuge had been Eeyore's bookstore on Broadway near West Seventy-ninth Street. There, her lifelong love of books had taken root.
The first book she remembered ever so subtly planting facedown by the cash register was Fifteen by Beverly Cleary. Meryl had been ten. It was the most romantic book she had ever read, and by the time she was in middle school and walking to the bookstore by herself, she was snatching up Barbara Cartland and Victoria Holt novels by the excited armful.
In college, the bodice rippers were replaced by the classics and, of course, the mandatory Feminine Mystique and Mary McCarthy's The Group. But by that time, her obsession with romance novels had been supplanted by her first real-life romance — a romance sparked by the worst English class Meryl had ever suffered through.
It had taken Meryl three semesters to get into the coveted American Literature II: 1865 to the Present class with Professor Dunham. Students who loved reading — who lived and breathed it — wanted Dunham. They knew he was the toughest, but he was also charismatic and brilliant. For true lovers of literature, he was the only one to trust as their guide from Whitman to Roth.
Unfortunately, Meryl got more than she'd bargained for. She struggled with Faulkner and stumbled with Thomas Pynchon. The optional "office hours," run by Dunham's TA, became essential to her academic survival.
At first, the soft-spoken TA, Hugh Becker, barely registered with her. He was a means to an end, her lifeline in a class that she had wanted so badly but was now her personal Titanic. Becker was tall and thin, blond and blue-eyed — not at all her type. But he had the artistic hands of a pianist or painter, and when he spoke about "The Beast in the Jungle," he was as passionate as Neil Young with a guitar. And she noticed — she wasn't completely blind after all — that when he spoke of Henry James's heroine May Bartram, he looked right at her. Every time.
Disappointingly, Meryl got a B+ in Dunham's class. She'd never earned anything less than an A in any English class, ever. She was angry at herself, annoyed with Dunham, and eager to wipe the slate clean with a new semester. She didn't think about American Literature II, Dunham, or his fair-haired boy Hugh Becker again, until she got an invitation in the mail three weeks before spring semester ended. It was the final days of her sophomore year, and Hugh Becker had invited her to a party — his book party.
He had published a book! Nonfiction. Abby May Alcott: An American Mother. It was incredibly impressive to Meryl, an almost unthinkable accomplishment. She toyed with writing a book someday — a novel. Or maybe short stories like Susan Sontag. But Hugh Becker had done it — he was a published author.
The party was in a town house just off lower Fifth Avenue. Meryl dragged her roommate along, and they were the youngest people there. With feigned sophistication, they drank white wine and ate cheese and crackers. Meryl felt out of place and slightly bored and decided she would eat just enough that she wouldn't have to buy food for dinner. And then she spotted Hugh Becker across the living room at the same time he saw her, and if there was such a thing in real life as "electricity" between two people, she felt it in that moment — an exhilarating spark.
Hugh Becker was not nearly so uptight as he had seemed in class; he knew his way around the town house (his agent's), and he confidently ushered Meryl into a small bedroom left vacant by the agent's college-aged son. There, he proclaimed his overwhelming attraction to her, his desire for her — confessing that he had barely been able to contain it the entire semester and had never been more relieved for a class to finish. Meryl, astonished, asked, "Why?"
"Well," he said, giving this serious thought, as though answering a question posed in a lecture hall. "You're beautiful. And temperamental. And you're not overly impressed by work it's taken me a lot longer not to be overly impressed by."
He asked if he could kiss her, and she was thrilled by the shocking turn of events. She had never even fantasized about Hugh Becker, and now she found herself wanting nothing more than to feel his hands on her body. She'd had sex with only two men in her life, and as soon as Hugh Becker's mouth pressed down on hers, she knew that very night he would be her third. And, quite possibly, her last.
* * *
For the past decade, Meryl's mother had lived alone in a six-story building that had a tiny lobby. Meryl did not know any of the other tenants; her mother had moved into the place the month she became a widow, and never bothered getting to know anyone. Not surprising: While Meryl was growing up, Rose had kept to herself even as the other mothers formed friendships and alliances at school drop-offs and pickups and on the PTA boards. But Rose kept a low profile. That's how she put it, "low profile." "I like it that way," she'd said.
Growing up, Meryl had taken these things as a matter of course, not recognizing the behavior as odd. Her mother was different from the mothers of her friends, but that was because Eastern Europeans were different. There was a wariness that ran bone deep.
Her mother had stomach problems. And insomnia. All just a part of her mother, like her blue eyes and ash blond hair and Polish accent.
The elevator was small, with a sliding door that had a round, gated window. Something about it made Meryl feel like any ride could be the one that ended in a free fall to the basement, so she opted for the stairs.
On the third floor, out of breath and vowing to make it to the gym sometime that week (month?), she rang her mother's bell.
"I feel bad you wasted a trip over here, Mrs. Becker," said Oona, opening the door and shaking her head.
"I'm not leaving here without her, Oona. Now, where is she?"
Oona led Meryl to the bedroom and briskly knocked once before opening the door.
Excerpted from The Wedding Sisters by Jamie Brenner. Copyright © 2016 Jamie Brenner. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Eight Months Until the Wedding,
Six Months Until the Wedding,
Three Months Until the Wedding,
One Month Until the Wedding,
24 Hours Until the Wedding,
The Wedding Day,
Reading Group Guide,
Also by Jamie Brenner,
Praise for the Author,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I found the main character, Meryl, quite hard to get along with. I didn't understand many of her actions, so I found her tricky to relate to. There were also more points of view than I expected in the book, but I didn't feel like I particularly gelled with any of them. My favourite character was Meryl's mother, but I'm not sure she was really used enough or if her thread just got a bit lost in the rest of the story. Same as with the thread where Meryl could have had an affair, and it just fizzled into a nothing situation, instead. The same as with the storyline with Hugh's student. I felt there were missed opportunities here. The blurb promised a lot, but I'm not sure it completely delivered. I expected something a lot more light-hearted - maybe even chick lit in tone. Something more comedic, but I read a different story with a lot of soul searching although I'm not sure I got to know the characters very well. I didn't have a very big love for the parallels with Little Women - the book would have fared equally well without them, although Hugh would have needed a different reason for being. The references felt a little shoe-horned in to give Meryl a reason to dislike her husband. I loved the concept of this book when I read the blurb, but it surprised me by being something other than what I expected. It was entirely readable and a good story. It just didn't grab me and make me love it. I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This was a really interesting read. Three daughters are all engaged & their mother seems to obsess over planning the weddings. I loved the 3 women, Jo, Meg, Amy, who were named after The Little Women novel because their father wrote about the author Louisa May Alcott. They each had such vivid stories told from their POV. This book was about secrets & learning to forgive. It has a lot of highs & lows, takes the reader on quite a ride. I did find the mother Meryl a bit overwhelming, she seemed totally focused on the wrong things, especially when her husband Hugh loses his job. Great read & I look forward to reading more books by Jamie Brenner Advanced Reader Copy provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Wedding Sisters by Jamie Brenner sounded like such a cute read. Three sisters get engaged the same year and a triple wedding is planned. I expected hijinks and cute situations and fun. Instead I read a tale of selfish people and an intense need to be seen as high class. Meryl, the mother of Meg, Amy, and Jo, is determined to throw her daughters the perfect wedding and will not accept help from anyone else. Oh, except from People magazine and some PR folks. Her husband, a seemingly sweet academic, decides to make an odd stand and potentially screw his family with no care for them, and Jo and Amy get engaged for all the wrong reasons. The plot of The Wedding Sisters had such potential. Instead it was like reading a script of Bridezillas featuring Momzillas on the warpath. The writing of Jamie Brenner had some really good moments. There were a few very funny parts and some real emotion, but the plot just dragged the great moments down. The pacing also had some issues. The time would skip a few months at a time, it was stated at the start of the chapter which was nice, but it still felt like there were some holes in the timeline. The world built was very limited, to mainly the home of Meryl, but this was primarily a character driven tale so it wasn’t detrimental to the story. There were some great emotions, however they were overshadowed by the intense need to be seen as important. The characters were all pretty awful. Greedy, selfish and so obsessed with how they were perceived, I disliked them all but Meg. She was a least a shining light in the story and I was glad I could latch on to her to follow through. The Wedding Sisters could have been amazing. Jamie Brenner had some great moments but the arc she took the family on just didn’t work for me. I didn’t hate the story, I was just turned off by the actions of the characters. That made this an average read for me; not great but not awful. Original review @ 125Pages.com I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Meryl Becker is living a mother's dream. The oldest of her three beautiful daughters, Meg, is engaged to a wonderful man from one of the country's most prominent families. Of course, Meryl wants to give Meg the perfect wedding. Who wouldn't? But when her two younger daughters, Amy and Jo, also become engaged to celebrated bachelors, Meryl has to admit that three weddings is more than she and her husband, Hugh, can realistically afford. The solution? A triple wedding! At first, it's a tough sell to the girls, and juggling three sets of future in-laws is a logistical nightmare. But when Hugh loses his teaching job, and Meryl's aging mother suddenly moves in with them, a triple wedding is the only way to get all three sisters down the aisle. When the grand plan becomes public, the onslaught of media attention adds to Meryl's mounting pressure. Suddenly, appearances are everything - and she will do whatever it takes to keep the wedding on track as money gets tight, her mother starts acting nutty, and her own thirty year marriage starts to unravel. In the weeks leading up to the nuptials, secrets are revealed, passions ignite, and surprising revelations show Meryl and her daughters the true meaning of love, marriage and family. Review: Having read Ms. Brenner before I thought this was a departure from her other books, I was pleasantly surprised. From the blurb is almost seems this is going to be more of a fun, light read, but there is lots of drama and emotions running through this story. It is really a story about family, love and life and how things never really go as planned. The the story's title leads you to believe it is just about the sisters, but Meryl the mother of the girls to me was the center of the story and it radiated out from her. A couple of times in the story soap operas and reality TV are mentioned and this book feels like a soap opera to me. Like a soap opera there is lost love, cheating, marriages of convenience, politics, scandal...you name it. In this book you have three daughters who through circumstance all end up engaged at the same time. Mom and her daughters each have issues in their lives and in the romance department and have a roller coaster ride of planning the wedding and getting them all to the alter. Again, like a soap opera the wedding day comes and revelations are made and who will make it through the ceremony and who won't? If you have read Ms. Brenner's other books you know that there is a sexy element to those stories, not really in this book though. There are a couple of steamy scenes, nothing overt though. The story is well-written and very engaging. I was loving and hating mom and daughters throughout the book, but in the end they redeemed themselves, at least in my eyes. This is not a series and can be read without worry of missing anything. 3.5Stars *I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.*
The Wedding Sisters tells Meryl Becker's story when her three daughters are getting married at the same time. We shift POV from Meryl to each of the three daughters so we get to know each character well while reading. We start the book with Meryl and her husband celebrating their oldest daughter, Meg's engagement and each family meeting one another. I loved seeing all the little details that come along with two different families meeting for the first time and it felt true to life. Meryl is struggling with keeping the wedding how she wants it for her daughter since Meg is marrying into a wealthy family that just wants to have things their way. Then we find out about the other two sisters getting engaged and Meryl is going to have to go into hyper speed mode to plan the weddings for all of them. That's when Meryl comes up with the idea of doing a triple wedding. Don't you know there is a ton of drama along the way! It made for a very entertaining read. I appreciated that JBrenner wrote the story the way she did. With the alternating POV, we got to know each daughter and their issues. Meg is the oldest daughter, she's the one viewed as being perfect and is set to marry a lawyer that comes from a very wealthy family. Amy is the middle daughter and is going to marry into a wealthy family as well that is in the fashion industry. And then we have Jo, a semi-former lesbian that is dealing with a rough break up with her girlfriend and her rebound is a close male friend. They wind up getting closer as she's dealing with the breakup and one thing leads to another and they're engaged as well. He's uber wealthy as well so all three girls are marrying into prominent families. The Wedding Sisters had a ton of drama, I wasn't sure what would happen next and it always kept my interest. The only thing I didn't fully enjoy in this story were the one or two scenes where a character cheated. So if you're not okay with that in books, I'd say steer clear. Otherwise, it was a light read that had me wondering if all the girls would get down the aisle. I recommend this book if you're a fan of women's fiction or chick lit.
Where to begin - I will begin by saying that this book is one of my faves of 2016! The character development is outstanding for Meg, Amy and Jo! I never feel as if I am wanting more, I know them, I know their stories and these are some girls I would love to be friends with! They are smart, driven, determined - well Meg and Amy are, Jo she's the baby and she will get there someday. I will give it to Jo, she has the passion but she can't seem to settle on a path, she's clueless at the moment. The drama starts to unfold when Meg is proposed to and the wedding craziness begins! Meryl (mom) is excited for Meg, Amy is livid because she believes that it should be her getting married (after all she has been with her boyfriend well over 5 years- basically forever), and Jo well she is a whole other story in and of herself that I will have you piece together little by little as you read. Things start to go down hill little by little - wedding disasters, cheating scandals, job loss, illness, mixed feelings, and more, yes I said more. Meryl and Hugh feel like it may be OK - and then Amy and Jo announce their engagements -3 weddings in a year - I bet they are close to losing their minds! I know I would be! And if that wasn't enough, they are thrust into the media spotlight for better and for worse. It's not always sunshine and rainbows - it can get downright ugly! Newspapers want the scoop, TV producers want to run with a story concept and political campaigns start to unfold. Will this family be able to weather each of these storms? Will they make it to I do? Grab a bottle of wine and sit back and enjoy there wild and crazy ride!