Published by Reagan Arthur Books
Publication date: June 25th 2013
Beautiful Day is Elin Hilderbrand’s newest novel and for her fans it’s another job well done. Jenna Carmichael is getting married but her happiest day is marred by her mother’s absence. Beth Carmichael died seven years ago and was known as a wise and gracious woman, widely loved by her family and friends. She was also, it seems, preternaturally prepared—she left behind a notebook for her baby girl with guidelines and ‘suggestions’ for all the details of her wedding when the day came. This point could make the novel a comedy of errors, instead Beth’s writings are strong and humorous, with advice for everyone without being overbearing. A loving mother’s last gift to her daughter.
There is storytelling of a kind that sweeps the reader along the surface with a strong plot but largely one-dimensional characters. Hilderbrand is a different breed, an author who creates great plots (a wealthy wedding on Nantucket? Please!) but adds a measure of depth and poignancy to her characters. In the bride’s family there is her father, who has yet to recover from his wife’s death despite getting remarried several years ago. His daughter’s wedding brings his feelings to the surface with unforeseen results. The oldest child is Margot, a typical oldest—in charge and bossy. But as her ex-husband prepares to marry a Pilates instructor and she tries to live up to her mother’s legacy, we see how painfully self-aware she is of what she believes are her deficiencies. Add in the groom’s family and his mother’s misguided belief that she should invite her husband’s ex and their son to the wedding and you have a blend of people and emotions that’s as dangerous as an open bar.
With the exception of Beth’s notebook the events in Beautiful Day follow a traditional wedding weekend. There is information disclosed that results in the wedding being called off, a search for the bride, dreadful guests, wedding party hook-ups, too much booze, and the logistics problems that arise with an at-home wedding. Hilderbrand has even segmented the book by day, leading up to the big day, interspersed with pages from the Notebook and outtakes from various characters, giving it the feel of a literary scrapbook. Everyone has their say and some say far too much but, in the end, all goes as it should, making Beautiful Day a perfect light summer read. It is the look behind the veil into the reality of the multitude of emotions weddings may evoke that give the book the feeling of one built to last.