Synopsis: A rehearsal dinner brings together two disparate families in this sparkling, witty novel
“This vital novel offers delicious echoes of Virginia Woolf and E. M. Forster, and a touch of A Midsummer Night’s Dream—but its magic is unique. The Garden Party is beautiful and full of life.”—Claire Messud, author of The Burning Girl and The Woman Upstairs
The Cohens are wildly impractical intellectuals—academics, activists, and artists. The Barlows are Wall Street Journal–reading lawyers steeped in trusts and copyrights, golf and tennis. The two families are reserved with and wary of each other, but tonight, the evening before the wedding that is supposed to unite them in marriage, they will attempt to set aside their differences over dinner in the garden.
As Celia Cohen, the eminent literary critic, sets the table, her husband, Pindar, would much rather be translating ancient recipes for his Babylonian cookbook than hosting this rehearsal dinner. Meanwhile, their son, Adam, the poet (and nervous groom), wonders if there is still time to simply elope. One of Adam’s sisters, Naomi, a passionate but fragile social activist, refuses to leave her room, while Sara, scorpion biologist turned folklore writer, sits up on the roof mourning an imminent breakup. And Pindar’s elderly mother, Leah, witnesses everything, weaving old memories into the present.
The lawyers are early: patriarch Stephen Barlow and his bespangled wife, Philippa, who specializes in estates, along with Philippa’s father, Nathan, hobbled by age and Lyme disease. Then come the Barlow sons William (war crimes), Cameron (intellectual property), and Barnes (the prosecutor), each with desperate wife and precocious offspring. How could their younger siblings—Eliza, the bride, an aspiring veterinarian, and her twin brother, Harry, recently expelled from divinity school—have issued from such a family?
Up and down the dinner table, with its twenty-four (or is it twenty-five?) guests, unions are forming and dissolving while Pindar is trying to figure out whether time is really shaped like baklava, and off in the surrounding forest with its ancient pond different sorts of mischief will lead to a complicated series of fiascoes and miracles before the party is over. Set over the course of a single day and night, Grace Dane Mazur’s brilliantly observed novel weaves an irresistible portrayal of miscommunication, secrets, and the power of love.
“Lyrical and charming, this comedy of errors is a delightful summer read.”—People