Destination wedding plus family drama, anyone?
When I read the synopsis for All Are Welcome, I had two simultaneous reactions.
First, that it sounded like a “family with secrets” kind of story, which I don’t typically enjoy. Second, that it somehow still sounded like a book I’d like to read.
So, I downloaded a digital ARC (thanks, NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing!) and set it aside for the next time I felt like reading outside my comfort zone. After all, some of my favorite reads have come from outside my typical memoir and romance boxes.
The time for one of those reads came during a somewhat impromptu weekend trip to West Virginia, and I read it in a few short days of carrying my Kindle with me everywhere.
(Full disclosure: I received a digital ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. Book links below are affiliate links, and I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you, should you choose to purchase).
All Are Welcome is told from alternating perspectives, capturing the thoughts and feelings of destination wedding goers at a small lesbian wedding uniting two old money families.
Of course, nearly everyone at the wedding (including the brides) is hiding some kind of secret, but the close quarters and tight wedding weekend schedule are bound to surface a few things they’d prefer to keep hidden.
Alternating perspectives can be annoying for me as a reader, but Liz Parker does a nice job of keeping the book’s vibe consistent while giving each character their own voice and perspective.
The two families have a bit of a history, and it quickly becomes clear that there might be motives besides love leading Catherine and Tiny down the aisle. There is a quiet, simmering current of something “not quite right” in the book from the beginning, and I found myself reading on to figure out just why it felt that way.
I enjoyed the pacing of slowly unfurling the complexities of love and relationship as we see what each character is struggling to hide or accept about their life in this moment, thrown into sharp relief by the weekend’s events.
Like many books without a central narrator, I found myself rooting even for some of the characters I probably wouldn’t have liked if I didn’t spend a bit of time in their heads.
That’s not to say I didn’t come to have my preferences, of course, but I loved the nuance of watching a father and brother struggle to accept their loved one’s sexuality, of seeing a mother try to understand how her children have become adults who are separate from her.
It showed how love and family are often far from simple, even when you want to accept your loved ones unconditionally in spite of the things about them you struggle to understand. The alternating viewpoints also made the mystery surrounding those characters whose minds we never enter all the more compelling.
Not being from a particularly wealthy family myself, trying to decide whether its worth fitting in to the country club, tennis-whites crowd isn’t familiar to me, but I found it fascinating all the same. All those rules and all that pressure make for a nice way to slowly bring up the heat until we hit the boiling point.
I enjoyed where the story ended, resisting tying things neatly into a knot and leaving a few stories still in progress — which, after all, is how life tends to go. No one was wholly the villain or the hero in the story, but rather we got to know their individual motivations and struggles better along the way.
In all, I recommend this one to those who love a good “family goes on a trip and drama ensues” story, but also to those who are looking for a quietly devastating novel about coming to terms with who you are and who your family wants you to be — whether or not those end up being the same person.
This didn’t seem like a book I’d love at face value, but I read it in a quick sprint, always a sign that I’m having a good time in a book. So, if you’re looking to step outside your norm and this sounds like a few strides away, I’d say give it a try, anyway!
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