A fifteen-hour flight requires the right companion—entertaining, thoughtful, witty, at times comforting, but not too demanding and never irritating. “Wedding Girl” by Stacey Ballis proved to be the perfect seat mate on a recent journey from Chicago to Sydney. Judging the book by its cover, one could expect a heteronormative ideal—a saccharin fairytale culminating with white frosting and a bridal cake topper. Just a few pages in, the perfect wedding falls apart, the bride is jilted, her sorry tale plastered over the tabloids and the reader hooked into a smoothly crafted tale of female friendship and self-determination.
Broken-hearted, jobless and broke, high-flying pastry chef Sophie moves in with her grandmother and begins work for a down-at-heel neighborhood bakery. In the process, she reconsiders values and ambitions that are out of step with her authentic self. She relies on the friendship of her lesbian pals, one who appears to be getting sucked into the orbit of a needy girlfriend. Her family is supportive, but her parents have their own struggles. They attempt to reconcile their hippie core with new property wealth and a desire for tradition and comfort in their later years. Sophie’s grandmother reveals the heartwarming and comedic possibilities of late-life romance and sex. Curvy protagonist Sophie bakes and eats her way through the chapters, providing a body-positive character and a list of delectable recipes at the end of the book.
The baddies comprise a stereotypic cad and his thin, blond mate. Other ostensible enemies are not what they seem, but the character and plot twists are fairly predictable. The writer lays out everything on the page, so there is no requirement for the reader to work at discovering meaning. This makes “Wedding Girl” effortless entertainment. Its light-hearted treatment of contemporary dating, business competition, aging, quirks in relationships for hetero, lesbian, young and old couples, and conflicts arising from matching values to lifestyle, lifts the book from pure froth. It is a funny, warm confection, perfect for the summer wedding season. (Toni Nealie)
By Stacey Ballis
Berkley, 416 pages, $16
Toni Nealie is the Literary Editor of Newcity and the author of the essay collection “The Miles Between Me.” A Pushcart Prize nominee, her essays have appeared in Guernica Magazine, Rust Belt: Chicago, The Rumpus, The Offing, Essay Daily, Chicago Quarterly Review, Hobart, Entropy and elsewhere. She worked in magazine journalism, politics and PR in her native New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Singapore and now edits, writes and teaches in Chicago. Find her at toninealie.com and on Twitter @tnealie. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.