The Singles by Meredith Goldstein. Publisher: Plume (May 2012). Women’s fiction. Paperback. 256 pages. 978-0452298057.
Weddings. Love them or not, they happen all the time. I’ve never enjoyed the one day extravagance that’s often a wedding. I’ve been an attendant in a few weddings but I’m not that “always the bridesmaid” woman. Not that there’s anything at all wrong with that. In The Boston Globe Love Letters columnist Meredith Goldstein’s debut novel The Singles, she chooses to focus on a caricatured group of singles connected in various ways (many were classmates at Syracuse University). The Singles reads quite simply and quickly. It lacks depth and purpose but more importantly, in the end, isn’t all that much fun.
It’s centered around a wedding because the bride chooses to dub those not bringing dates to her nuptials the “singles.” So who are these dateless [pathetic?] individuals? There’s Hannah, a New York-based casting agent, who still seems somewhat obsessed with her college-and-beyond boyfriend Tom. She annoyingly casts everyone she runs into and gets others involved in her little casting exercises as well. It gets tiresome rather quickly. Vicki lives in upstate New York and designs supermarket interiors requiring her to travel a lot. She carries a sun lamp and reads V.C. Andrews novels to keep up her spirits. I think the reader’s to believe that she’s given up on everything. At 29. Rob flunked out of Syracuse and moved to Texas. Phil attends the wedding at the insistence of his overbearing mother, who’s not feeling well enough to attend her best friend’s daughter’s celebration. Then there’s Joe, the amiable uncle of the bride. They all have enviable careers—the casting director, interior design, a lawyer, head of security for the Baltimore Orioles etc. As the wedding progresses, each singles story unfolds and meshes with others. Some of Goldstein’s references are strange and some– Sex and the City episodes, “the book written by the kid with autism with the dog on the cover”– recognizably amusing.
Advising those in and out of love being a central focus of her work at The Boston Globe, you’d expect Goldstein to have heard/ read quite a few fascinating scenarios. Therein lies the disappointment with these undeveloped, roughly sketched characters. With short chapters, a fluffy plot, and characters you’ll forget as soon as you close the book, The Singles is a certifiable beach read or rainy day-with-pot-of-tea read (if you, like I, dislike a lot of sun).
purchase at Amazon: The Singles: A Novel