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Jeanne McCulloch, "All Happy Families"
On a mid-August weekend in 1983, at a rambling family mansion on the beach in East Hampton, family and friends gather for a wedding. These are the area’s final days of refined country splendor--before traffic jams, high-end stores, hedge fund managers and celebrities morphed the area into "The Hamptons." Preparations for a picturesque wedding are well underway--the weather is perfect, the tent is on the lawn, the guests are en route when tragedy strikes. The father of the bride, and "paterfamilias" of the beachfront manse, suffers a massive stroke from alcohol withdrawal, and lies in a coma in the hospital in the next town. So begins Jeanne McCulloch’s long-awaited and stunning debut memoir, that’s certain to be this summer’s “must read". This intimate family saga (think The Nest meets The Glass Castle) gracefully brings us behind the dappled beachfront vista of privilege, to reveal the inner lives of two wonderfully colorful, unforgettable families.
“Later that afternoon, my mother would pin the family veil on my head. She’d mutter about how I should have let her get a proper hairdresser to tame my wild beach hair. Then she’d call the hospital and instruct them that no matter what happened that evening to her husband, they were not to call our house. Because, she went on to say, we were having a party,” writes McCulloch in this dreamy and beautiful story. Days later, instead of a planned honeymoon, wedding presents are stashed in the attic, arrangements are made for a funeral, and a team of lawyers arrive armed with papers for McCulloch and her siblings to sign. The repercussions of this shocking weekend ripple throughout the lives of McCulloch and her family, as well of her in-laws as they all grapple with questions of loyalty, tradition, marital honor, hope, and loss.
Jeanne McCulloch is a former managing editor of The Paris Review and senior editor of Tin House magazine. She is the founding Editorial Director of Tin House Books. Her fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The Paris Review, Tin House, The New York Times, O Magazine, Vogue, and the North American Review among other publications. She lives in New York.