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Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

While Eight Hundred Grapes is Laura Dave's fourth novel, this is the first novel by Dave that I've read.  I've had my eye on this novel ever since one of the libraries acquired it.  It's a quick read, but there are secret-y secrets that no one wants to talk about.  After nearly an entire book of everyone avoiding the issues that they don't want to talk about and watching those issues fester, well, it gets frustrating.  However, it is an engrossing read because you want to know how everything turns out for these people for whom the world is pretty much falling apart.

Seven days before her wedding Georgia literally stumbles across the secret her fiance, Ben, has been keeping for months: the four and a half year old daughter that he found out (FIVE MONTHS PREVIOUSLY) he shares with his glamorous movie star ex.  So Georgia packs a suitcase, gets out of dodge, and drives home to her family's vineyard in northern California.  When she arrives she finds her family undergoing some seismic upheavals that her parents and brothers have been keeping from Georgia and that threaten to render them asunder.  Of course, no one wants to talk about any of these issues regardless of the damage it's doing to the family.  Because secret-y secrets are the stuff that healthy families are raised on.

Her father is selling the vineyard he loves to a big mass producer of wine.  Her mother is leaving her father for Henry (who cares not one whit about the damage he's doing to this family so long as he gets the girl he's been pining for these last few decades).  And her brothers come to blows when it is revealed that one brother and the other brother's wife are in love with each other.  Any one of these issues would be enough to rip a family apart but throw them at a family all at once, and everything starts to fall apart at the seams and then some.

Meanwhile everyone is counseling Georgia not to let Ben go.  But they are not really listening to or drilling down to the main issues at hand in Georgia and Ben's relationship.  The man lied about having a daughter and is unwilling to see the wrong in his decision to keep this from Georgia.  And he is still withholding information from Georgia regarding the situation with his baby mama.  If he kept his daughter a secret when he found out about her because he didn't want to rock the boat with his fiance, what else will he hide just so he doesn't have to deal with the emotional fallout that comes with revealing the truth?  Essentially he was fine with marrying Georgia while lying to her by omission.  How long was he planning on keeping the existence of his daughter from his fiance and later wife anyway?  How does he think she'll react to the truth if he reveals it after they marry and she finds out he knew months before the wedding?

Two rants I had (you know I had at least one):

Unfortunately (or fortunately? before the wedding) Georgia finds out some secrets that her parents, brothers, and fiance have been keeping from her either because they 'didn't want to hurt her' or 'didn't want to ruin her [upcoming] wedding' with some sad upheavals.   However, everyone just expects her to roll with it, get over it in a hot minute, and get on with her life and her wedding.  No.  Give chica a chance to process what the changes mean, mourn lost trust and the possible dissolution of her family as she knows it, and adjust to the new status quo.

This was the most exasperating aspect of the book.  No one wants to talk about anything.  How are you supposed to work through issues if the other party is all--hey, not talking about it is how we'll get through this, we just won't deal with it.  No, you don't want to face the consequences or the hard truth or the role you played in this mess, AND you're still not being completely open about everything.  This is reason alone to postpone the wedding at the very least if not cancel it altogether.

--Review by Ms. Angie


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