Review Time: Beautiful Day

I’m at that age where many people around me are getting engaged/ married. I myself got married this past August.  So I feel like I can say, with a fair amount of certainty, that weddings, more than any other social convention, are inherently wrought with drama. Of course the negative drama comes to mind first, as it is the subject of many TLC/ Slice reality T.V. shows. Hurt feelings over a mothers’ dress not worn, last minute hair catastrophe (I once had to handle a brides’ last minute toenail emergency!), the inevitable disagreements over the invite list and my favorite: unsavory speech content.
But at the same time, weddings bring out the more “positive” drama as well. Happy tears, Dads who call florists looking for 18 ivory roses the night before the wedding, sisters who overcome public speaking fears just to tell the bride how much they love her.

Like I said, for better or worse, weddings are wrought with drama. This must be why people like writing about them so much!

Beautiful Day by Elin Hildenbrand is the story of the wedding of Jenna Carmichael to Stuart Graham. What would be your typical story of 2 families coming together to witness this blessed union (bringing with them their collective dramatics) is made a little more interesting. The wedding was planned, from readings to cake, by Jennas’ mother Beth, who died 5 years prior. In the 8 months between her diagnosis of ovarian cancer and her passing, Beth wrote out all of her advice and plans and dreams for her youngest daughter in “The Notebook”.

Welling up yet?

Excerpts from the notebook are interspersed throughout the novel, adding another layer to the story. The voice of Beth in these entries is painfully optimistic, the forced cheerfulness of a woman who is planning a wedding she knows she won’t see. She tries to infuse this Notebook with a ‘mother of the bride’-ness, slightly bossy, supportive, sentimental and careful to never be angry at the unfair cards she’s been dealt. The rest of the characters struggle not only with their own individual lives, but to get through the first momentous occasion since losing the family matriarch. At the centre of this story are 3 primary narrators: Margot, the oldest Carmichael child and maid of honour. Margot is working through her own complicated love life, raising 3 children and trying to fill in for her mother. Doug, the father of the bride who is struggling to simultaneously mourn his wifes’ absence and celebrate his daughters’ marriage. Lastly Ann, the mother of the groom, with family drama of her own, learning about humility and second chances.

This book is a fun and easy read, but not lacking in depth or drama. The characters are flawed but likable, and you truly feel for them. As a fictional book about a wedding, Beautiful Day falls squarely under “beach/vacation read”, but it’s one that I would read anytime.

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