Published May 2016, by Simon Schuster
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
Format: Trade Paperback
Page Count: 288
You have to grow about eight hundred grapes to get just one bottle of wine. If that isn’t an argument to finish the bottle, I don’t know what is. – Anonymous
Wine country. As soon as you see those words, images spring to mind of endless rows of twisty grape vines nestled among rolling hills that meet a wide gorgeous dusky sky. Remember the movie A Walk in the Clouds with Keanu Reeves? That sense of family, of tradition, of responsibility and romance? Grapes in the grocery store don’t evoke any of those feelings but uncork a really good bottle of wine, and you can instantly smell all of the work and love that went into each of those grapes. My best friend gave me this book because she knows I love two things: reading and wine. Each of those is enough of a reason!
For my birthday, Chareese wrapped this book and two others individually in brown packing paper. She wrote vague little summaries on each of them and labeled them each “A date with a book”. So I not truly did not know what I was about to read or who had written it. But now I know I can trust my friend to pick out a great read for me because this book certainly turned out to be a good date for me.
Eight Hundred Grapes is the story of soon-to-be-wed (maybe?) Georgia and her wine-making family going through changes in Sonoma County, California. Georgia’s parents have owned and operated the Last Straw Vineyard her whole life and she’s planning on getting married in that hallowed place within one week. And then the bottom seems to drop out of her life. Marriages are threatened, secrets are revealed, and relationships that seemed iron-clad before have become as uncertain as the future of her family’s vineyard.
I had trouble seeing the role synchronization played in my own life. The role it was supposed to play. Until it went and destroyed my blessedly ignorant, willfully optimistic life, in a way I couldn’t ignore unless I ran from it.
The bulk of the story is about decision and indecision. Coming to that point in your life where something happens to knock you off your rails and you have to make a decision to move forward or move… away. Georgia ends up facing more than one of those life-altering moments at one time and the people that she usually depends on to help her through tough decisions – her family – just happen to be the cause of all her problems this time around. And everyone’s leaving some major decisions up to her. No pressure.
A key theme for all the characters is synchronization, and for them, it means being in the right place at the right time or the fatefully wrong place at a time that changes everything. The things Georgia, her parents, her brothers, and even her fiancé has to parse out is how much they will allow fate to govern their lives or how much control they have over making the right decisions for themselves in business, in family, and in love.
Synchronization. You get into the wrong yellow buggy and build a life with someone. You do everything in your power to build a new one when that life falls apart.
At many points during this book, I thought about all the times I really wish cloning was a possibility. That way I could date both the smart, nerdy guy from school and the handsome bad-boy that lived down the street at the same time. Or I could go to the crazy house party and stay home and tuck into a really good book both on the same night. I don’t think Georgia, the main character, would disagree with me that cloning would have solved some problems for her, but in the end, hard decisions are made. Sometimes the big ones leave you wondering what if? And there’s no good answer as to which decision would lead to a better, happier life. So it is in Eight Hundred Grapes. Each family member decides for themselves and they have to live with those choices for better or worse.
I really enjoyed reading this book. It was fresh, engaging, and well-paced. It was romantic, but not cheesy or over-sexualized. It had the perfect balance of all the things that make for a good story. Laura Dave does an excellent job of not leading us to any foregone conclusions and she writes in such a way that we end up caring about what happens to each character. That’s not an easy feat with such a large cast. But she pulls it off.
A solid 4.5 stars. This is my first Laura Dave book, but I hope it won’t be my last. I may have just found a new author for my “faves” list.
About the Author:
Laura Dave is the author of the critically acclaimed novels The First Husband, The Divorce Party, London Is The Best City In America, Eight Hundred Grapes, and Hello Sunshine. Dave’s fiction and essays have been published in The New York Times, ESPN, Redbook, Glamour and Ladies Home Journal.
Dubbed “a wry observer of modern love” (USA Today), Dave has appeared on CBS’s The Early Show, Fox News Channel’s Fox & Friends and NPR’s All Things Considered. Cosmopolitan Magazine recently named her a “Fun and Fearless Phenom of the Year.”
Three of her novels have been optioned for the big screen with Dave adapting Eight Hundred Grapes for Fox2000.