cover image The World After Alice

The World After Alice

Lauren Aliza Green. Viking, $30 (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-83355-1

Green evokes The Big Chill in her dramatic if undercooked debut about a Maine wedding that takes place 12 years after the groom’s older sister’s suicide. Alice Weil, a 16-year-old violin prodigy, jumped to her death from the George Washington Bridge. Now, her brother, Benji, is marrying Alice’s childhood best friend, Morgan. In attendance are Alice’s divorced parents, Linnie and Nick; Morgan’s divorced dad, Peter; and Alice’s grandmother, who has dementia. Nick, who’s secretly dealing with financial troubles, brings his younger wife, Caro, while Linnie is accompanied by her new boyfriend, Ezra, a philosophy professor and former high school teacher of Alice’s. Complicating things further is Peter’s long-standing crush on Linnie. Though Benji sees the wedding as a chance for the families to heal old wounds, Morgan realizes “no one had abandoned their grief” for Alice; “they’d merely found better places to hide it.” The plot—complete with love notes accidentally shared with the wrong person, wedding guests hiding in closets, and secret rendezvous—hints at farce, but the tone never finds its footing, as Green keeps things somber and sedate and the intimations of an illicit relationship between two of the characters evaporate on the way to an enigmatic conclusion. Only the most patient readers need apply. (July)