Published by Crown on May 5th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction
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Meet Lily Wilder: New Yorker, lawyer extraordinaire, blushing bride. And totally incapable of being faithful to one man.
Lily’s fiancé Will is a brilliant, handsome archaeologist. Lily is sassy, impulsive, fond of a good drink (or five) and has no business getting married. Lily likes Will, but does she love him? Will loves Lily, but does he know her? As the wedding approaches, Lily’s nights—and mornings, and afternoons—of booze, laughter and questionable decisions become a growing reminder that the happiest day of her life might turn out to be her worst mistake yet.
Unapologetically sexy with the ribald humor of Bridesmaids, this joyously provocative debut introduces a self-assured protagonist you won’t soon forget.
Man. This was a rough one. For the record, there will be spoilers here. I really struggled to finish this one, but it was for my book club, so I kept going. But, wow. I have rarely read (or listened to) a book where every single character was just a horrible human being. Even books that are about murders, serial killers, pedophiles, or whatever usually have a good guy. This was just horrible people making horrible decisions and doing horrible things to each other.
Lily… Lily is a piece of work. We first meet her at a bar. She’s making out with a random guy, getting really drunk, and doing coke, when she gets a call from the law office where she works demanding she come in, never mind that it’s almost midnight on a Saturday and she’s at her bachelorette party. She goes into the office, stumbling down the hallway, has sex with her boss, and goes home to her fiancee, Will, who is by all accounts a pretty good guy. This is my first problem with her. I don’t care how many men or women you sleep with. Make out with 10 guys at the bar then go home with 10 others. I do not care. But when you’re involved in a relationship, engaged to be married in a few days, no less, and lying to your significant other about your activities, I have a problem with it.
This is how almost the entire book goes. They go to the Florida Keys for their wedding, Lily has doubts about marrying Will. Every time it comes up, and it comes up a lot, she does her best Scarlett O’Hara and claims she’ll deal with it later. Lily, I hate to tell you, you’re out of time. The entire book takes place in the five days leading up to the wedding. Lily has doubts, she has sex with a random guy, she decides to marry Will. She celebrates by having sex with a random guy, has doubts about getting married, decides she will marry him. Her entire family and all of her friends tell her she shouldn’t marry him because he’s a good guy and she’s clearly not ready to get married, but every time someone tells her that, she strengthens her resolve to marry him. There’s a capital-I Incident from her childhood that is constantly alluded to but not revealed until about two-thirds of the way through the book, and it pretty much just reinforces that Lily was always a terrible human being. Easily four-fifths of the book is “I shouldn’t marry Will, I’m going to marry Will, I shouldn’t marry Will, I’m going to marry Will” over and over and over.
The book is trying really hard to be some sort of feminist comment on the difference between how men who enjoy sex and women who enjoy sex are treated. It’s a valid statement. But it’s hardly new, and Eliza Kennedy doesn’t have anything new to say about it here. And you can’t just be a dick and yell “FEMINISM” when you’re called out on being a dick. And it’s hard to take the message seriously when it’s coming from a woman who we don’t really see enjoying the sex all that much, and who has to lie constantly about the sex she’s having. She doesn’t come across as a woman who’s out having a lot of really great sex with a lot of different men because she enjoys it. She comes across as a woman who has some sort of compulsion to try and sleep with literally any man who enters her field of vision. It seems more desperate than empowering. There are several different men who try to mansplain to Lily why she has sex and how she feels about it, and her reactions to those conversations aren’t wrong or misplaced. But, my god, you just cannot take her seriously. She’s one of the most vapid, self-centered, and just terrible characters I’ve ever read. Listening to this book, having her almost literally in my head for seven and a half hours drove me crazy. I was so ready to just stop so many times. I couldn’t take it.
And her family. My god. Her grandmother seemed like a decent woman, but the rest of them. Her parents split up when Lily was young, and she has four step-mothers. Three of the step-mothers and Lily’s mother are all really good friends, so they’re all in Florida for the wedding. Her father arrives for a few days after Lily does, and she clearly doesn’t see him very often, because in one of the more uncomfortable scenes, Lily comes across her mother having sex with a man she can only see from the back, and Lily sticks around to watch, commenting (in her own head, of course, not out loud) on how attractive various parts of the man are. Who is of course her father. I realize that Lily didn’t know it was her dad, but she did know it was her mom, and she still stood there watching. Watching people have sex when they don’t know you’re watching is gross enough on its own, much less when it’s your mom.
Her father ends up sleeping with all the ex-wives, while of course lying to all of them about it, but it’s ok, because they’re all using him for sex, too, and it’s just one big laugh riot all around. And, as Lily explains to them, loudly, it’s their fault she’s the way she is, not her own fault. If they had been better role models, she would be a totally different person.
Lily tries to have sex with everyone in this book. Again, not a judgement on the amount of sex or the amount of men, but you’re in town for your own wedding. Not only should you not be sleeping with other men if your fiance doesn’t know about it, it’s just smart to go outside your own hotel if you’re trying to hide it. Half the men she hits on, some successfully, some not, are there for her wedding and are friends of Will’s. Which she doesn’t know because she and Will haven’t been together very long and haven’t met each other’s friends or families until now.
But then – surprise twist!! Will sleeps around, too! How wonderful! Now they can both enter into a polyamorous marriage being honest with each other and everyone will be happy! Except no. Because Lily throws an absolute hissy fit when she discovers Will’s infidelity and calls off the wedding. Seriously. By the end, I just could not deal with Lily anymore. I was tempted to go down to the library and find a print copy so I could just finish it and get it out of the way, but I didn’t.
There’s a scene that’s clearly meant to be funny involving a deposition Lily does while she’s in Florida. I think that if I read it in a vacuum I would have been amused by it, but it comes too close to the end for me and I was over Lily by this point. She’s trying to goad the other lawyer into something, and she’s offended when he calls her ‘young lady’, so she does everything she can to annoy him. She has her client constantly ask the lawyer to repeat his questions, she makes faces at the lawyer, mocks his southern accent, sings her objections, hums, spills her water, etc. It was cringe-worthy. It has the desired effect of pissing him so he calls the judge and pisses the judge off, allowing Lily to make a case for canceling the deposition, but it’s hard to see how she isn’t going to lose her job when she gets back home. But even before she decided to goad the other lawyer, at the beginning of the deposition when she was actually trying to do her job, she spent the entire time reading and responding to apologetic emails and text messages from Will. She never looked up from her phone. No wonder the other lawyer called her ‘young lady’. She was acting like a teenager, not a junior associate at a top law firm.
A note about the narration – Julia Whelan did a great job. She sounded exactly what I think Lily would have sounded like. And the voice she used for Lily’s dad was fantastic – dead on. Julia Whelan gets none of the blame for how bad this book is.
I know this review was a little rambling, and I’m sorry, but my thoughts about this book were all over the place. I really wanted to like it. I really wanted to like Lily. And for the first few chapters, I did. Well, I didn’t like her, but I was amused by her. But it just kept going and kept going and kept grating on me until I couldn’t take it anymore. Except for one scene. Which was absolutely hilarious and I actually rewound it and listened to it three times. Lily and her best friend, a ‘most-of-the-time-lesbian’ (don’t get me started on that) are in Lily’s hotel room completely drunk, doing lines of cocaine, and putting together the seating chart for the wedding. All the gingers at one table. A table of all left-handed people sitting to the right of right-handed people. A table of people who have cheated on spouses with each other. Etc. It was genuinely funny. Also – I usually have author info under my reviews, but as far as I can tell Eliza Kennedy doesn’t have a web site or anything, so it’s not there this time.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: