Today I am so pleased to welcome Liz Parker to Joyfully Jay. Liz has come to talk to us about her latest release, All Are Welcome. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Female WASPs liked to gather for meals, but they didn’t like to eat. Caroline considered the table. Her mother, Daisy, Bitty, andTiny played with their food like synchronized swimmers, their forks and knives almost symphonic in their coordination. Caroline was tempted to start tapping her various glasses for full effect. Connie was the only one actually eating as she bit into a sandwich and mayo and lettuce squeezed out of the other side and dribbled down her hand. Connie caught Caroline staring and mouthed whoops! and Caroline reached across to her plate and took a fry. Caroline mouthed I’m sorry about the tennis and Connie gestured no big deal with her hand. Connie didn’t care about fitting in to this world and it always stopped Caroline in her tracks. Imagine not caring about where you belong.
Her mother kept manually chopping her salad, placing a minuscule bite in her mouth, quickly chewing, and then craning her neck to either side of the table and saying,“Now, isn’t this lovely!” The first few times, the other women put their own utensils down and agreed, Daisy even going so far as to side hug Tiny and say she’d been waiting a long time for this moment, but for the past ten minutes, no one had offered any sort of response whatsoever. It was official: Mabel Schell was the most excited for tonight.
The small talk at the table was going strong, and Caroline didn’t know whether to sacrifice Bitty or herself to the Small Talk Gods. At this moment, Bitty and Daisy were deep in conversation about whether the Country Club of Connecticut would ever consider adding a third seating for their Easter brunch. No matter that it was September and no matter that Caroline was pretty sure Daisy and Hank didn’t even belong to the Country Club of Connecticut.
“I just think,” Bitty said, now getting conspiratorial with her fork pointed toward the ceiling, “that if the club is encouraging members to spend the holidays there, and they have to with how much they’re paying the new chef, then they need to make sure everyone is accommodated. It’s what you do.” She emphasized this last part. Daisy nodded vigorously.
“I keep telling Hank how we need to spend more time over there. It’s worth it for the community, you know?” Daisy was a fifty-five-year-old mother of four grown children stuck in a thirty-three-year-old body utterly devoted to SoulCycle.
Tiny kept crossing and recrossing her legs. Neither Daisy nor Bitty seemed to notice that no one else had said a word since their Cobb salads had been served. Even Mabel was barely exclaiming anymore, though Caroline knew for a fact that her mother found the club unbearably uptight, not to mention unaffordable.
“Has the club opened membership to gays or Jewish people yet, Mother?” Tiny asked. She asked the question so earnestly, Bitty didn’t immediately register what she’d said. Caroline smiled; her body shot with adrenaline as she realized Tiny wanted to poke the bear.Tiny never wanted to poke the bear.
“You know how long the wait list is, dear. All are welcome; it’s just terribly difficult to get in,” Bitty said, her eyes betraying the calmness of her voice. Caroline wanted to lean over and kiss Tiny.This was the woman she fell in love with.The one who didn’t let people hide from what they didn’t want to see.
“It’s just funny to talk about a club that doesn’t allow gay people at a gay wedding. Don’t you think?” She spoke with the perfect inflection of politeness. It was a true skill, Caroline thought, how Tiny could twist and bend herself into moments.
“Tiny!” Bitty said. “You know you could have had a reception at the club if you’d wanted it.”
Caroline physically bristled at that memory: their parents pretending that a reception at the club would be their choice and Tiny tortured by the idea of hosting any kind of event at a country club that openly rejected so many different groups of people. “I’m sick of being the exception,” Tiny had said, her words soggy and tearful. Caroline had held her on their rug, making Tiny into the smallest spoon that ever was. Bitty and Dick and Peter tried not to act relieved when the girls told them they wanted to do something small and far away, and Mabel openly acted relieved. “Have a party that’s actually you two!” she’d said, hushing Peter when he said the club knew how to put on a good wedding. Plus, a destination wedding meant their engagement could be cut in half. Mabel wanted Caroline to marry Tiny yesterday. Dick had played it off by asking a string of are you sures. But Bitty had jumped up too quickly, settled on a number too quickly, and decided on throwing a larger party someday in the future too quickly.All six of them wanted the same thing for entirely different reasons.
“Luckily, it’s not what we wanted,” Caroline said. Tiny reached over and took her hand.
“Very luckily,”Tiny said.
“We didn’t mean anything by it,” Daisy said.
Tiny opened her mouth, but nothing came out.
“Of course you didn’t,” Caroline said on Tiny’s behalf. “You just meant that you wished there was another seating at your all-white, all-Christian, all-straight club. And I get it: their raw bar is to die for, and it’s a tragedy when it runs out before it’s your turn.”
Daisy and Bitty exchanged horrified looks. Mabel and Connie smirked and Connie coughed to try to disguise a laugh.
Caroline was bolstered by coming to Tiny’s rescue.
“Let’s not forget whose weekend it is, shall we?” she asked, looking between Bitty and Daisy and reveling in the tension.
Caroline pushed her chair back and invited Tiny to join her.
“You and I have a date to get married,” she said, kissing her square on the mouth in front of everyone.
Tiny McAllister never thought she’d get married. Not because she didn’t want to, but because she didn’t think girls from Connecticut married other girls. Yet here she is with Caroline, the love of her life, at their destination wedding on the Bermuda coast. In attendance?their respective families and a few choice friends. The conflict-phobic Tiny hopes for a beautiful weekend with her bride-to-be. But as the weekend unfolds, it starts to feel like there’s a skeleton in every closet of the resort.
From Tiny’s family members, who find the world is changing at an uncomfortable speed, to Caroline’s parents, who are engaged in conspiratorial whispers, to their friends, who packed secrets of their own?nobody seems entirely forthcoming. Not to mention the conspicuous no-show and a tempting visit from the past. What the celebration really needs now is a monsoon to help stir up all the long-held secrets, simmering discontent, and hidden agendas.
All Tiny wanted was to get married, but if she can make it through this squall of a wedding, she might just leave with more than a wife.
For fans of Emma Straub, Camille Perri, and J. Courtney Sullivan comes a darkly funny novel from a fresh new voice in fiction about brides, lovers, friends, and family, and all the secrets that come with them.
Liz Parker is a literary agent at Verve Talent & Literary. She has written for the New York Times’s Modern Love column, and she lives in Los Angeles with her wife Sarah Tallman and their two dogs.