INTRODUCTIONBee wanted the perfect wedding; she got the “Singles.”
Back in her single days-before she met the man of her dreams-Beth “Bee” Evans hated being forced to attend weddings solo. Determined to spare her friends the same humiliation, she invites everyone on her list with a guest. Much to her chagrin, however, Hannah, Vicki, Rob, Joe, and Nancy insist upon attending Bee’s lavish Chesapeake Bay nuptials alone. The frustrated bride dubs them the “Minus-Ones” and their collective decision wreaks unintended havoc on her otherwise perfectly planned wedding weekend.
One of today’s most popular relationship columnists, Meredith Goldstein, has penned a sparkling debut novel that chronicles the promises and disappointments of love and friendship with humor, compassion, and wisdom.
ABOUT MEREDITH GOLDSTEIN
MEREDITH GOLDSTEIN is an advice columnist and entertainment reporter for The Boston Globe. In addition to “Love Letters,” she co-writes the paper’s society column, “Names.” She lives in Boston.
A CONVERSATION WITH MEREDITH GOLDSTEINQ. You’re the Love Letters columnist for The Boston Globe. How did that inform your writing? Were you able to use any situations you’ve advised people on in that capacity in the novel?
Despite the fact that I spend eight hours a day reading people’s dramatic love problems and advising them about what to do next, my column didn’t influence the book – at least not as much as I thought it would. I think that’s because I write Love Letters with my head on straight. In Love Letters, I’m the voice of reason. But when I stepped into the minds of my Singlescharacters, I could be irrational and erratic. I could be oversensitive and cruel. I tried to compartmentalize as much of my Love Letters brain as I could while I was writing the novel. I was Meredith Goldstein, the girl who’s been to (and flipped out at) dozens of weddings alone, as opposed to the Meredith Goldstein who always knows what’s best.
Q. Was it difficult for you to make the switch over to writing fiction since you’re a journalist by day? How was the process different for you? Do you prefer one to the other?
It was more challenging than I thought it would be. After writing about a third of my first draft of The Singles, I suddenly realized that my characters hadn’t spoken yet. I was afraid to make up dialogue, because in journalism you would absolutely never, under any circumstances, make up a quote. It took me a while to realize that I could make these characters speak, and that writing fiction allowed me to be a puppet master. And as it turns out, I love being a puppet master. I love being a journalist just as much, but this experience was wonderfully freeing.
Q. Did you find yourself drawn to any of the characters in particular? Was there any one you were especially rooting for while you were writing? Did you draw from your own romantic experiences for any of the characters?
A few major and minor characters are based on men who broke my heart, and I have to guess that they’ll know who they are when they read the book (assuming they do). As for my favorite characters, well, I love Rob, of course. He’s magnetic, and I have a weird, fictional crush on him (even though I’m allergic to dogs). But at the end of the day, I’m always thinking of Phil. It’s hard not to root for him.
Q. What are you working on next? Will we meet The Singles again?
I’m working on a book about love and science. That’s all I can say right now. And yes, we will absolutely see some of The Singles again. I can’t imagine letting them go.g
- For much of the beginning of the novel, Hannah is imagining what might happen when she sees Tom again at the wedding. What do you make of her fantasy in light of what you learn about their breakup later on? Other characters in the novel have similar fantasies about what may or may not happen to them at the wedding –– what do these daydreams reveal to you about the characters?
- Jackie, one of the other bridesmaids, breaks up with her boyfriend after discovering that he’d been stealing from her, although she continues to pay down his debt without trying to track him down. The author writes: “She’d rationalized that she deserved to pay the price of overlooking the one crime she was trained to catch.” What do you make of this kind of thinking? Are any of the other characters in the novel prone to a similar kind of rationalization?
- What were your first impressions of Dawn? What do the other characters in the novel think of her? Did your opinion of her change over time? Did she surprise you in any ways?
- Consider Vicki and Joe’s initial meeting from both characters’ perspectives. How do they misinterpret one another? Are there other examples of this kind of misinterpretation in the book? In what ways is this novel about communication––or the lack thereof?
- What do you think of the novel’s structure? Do the various viewpoints of “the singles” allow you to shape a different understanding of the situations at hand than you might have if only one character narrated?
- What kind of techniques does the author employ to draw the reader into this group of friends? How does she make the characters relatable? Did any details in particular ring true for you?
- Discuss the various romantic relationships in the novel. Which ones do you think will work out? What about the others? What is it that ultimately keeps people together or drives them apart?
- What do you think really keeps Rob from attending the wedding in the first place? How does what happens to Liz compel him to fly to Annapolis?
- Describing the group of friends at the wedding. the author writes, “They laughed uncontrollably and never got bored of each other…and even though they’d coupled off by twenty…it always felt as though the twosomes were just part of a greater whole.” Have you ever experienced a friendship like this? Do you think it’s possible for friendships like these to continue after the end of college? How does the novel deal with the difficulties and nuances of “growing up?”
- What are your thoughts on the end of the novel? Did it leave you feeling hopeful for the characters? What do you imagine will happen to them next?