Thursday, June 4, 2015

Review: Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

I buy wine based on the label. If it's clever, punny, or beautiful, I am more inclined to put it in my grocery basket. Probably not a particularly good method for buying wine, but since I don't drink it myself, it's a method that works for me (and my closest wine drinking friends know to bring their own if they want a guarantee of any sort). So perhaps it seems odd that I would be at all interested in a novel with a winery so central to the story but I have to say that I would definitely buy wine from The Last Straw Winery in Laura Dave's new novel, Eight Hundred Grapes.

When Georgia is having a final fitting for her wedding dress one week before her wedding, she spots her fiancĂ© Ben walking down the street with a beautiful woman and an even more beautiful child walking between them. She cannot process the truth of this accidental revelation and flees, still in her dress, to her childhood home many hours north of her LA home. Reeling from the secret Ben has kept from her, she goes back to the place that grounds her, The Last Chance Winery in Sonoma County, the vineyard that her parents started decades before but she finds that it is not the refuge she once thought, walking into the complicated and tangled secrets that her parents and her brothers had thought to keep from her until after the wedding. Her twin brothers are more than strained, they're estranged for some reason, and when she arrives home unannounced, she discovers a naked man, not her father, coming out of her mother's bedroom. Add to all of this the news that her father has sold their small artisanal winery to a large corporation, and Georgia is really thrown for a loop.

As Georgia muddles through, putting her own indecision about the wedding on the back burner, she tries very hard to fix her parents' marriage, her brothers' relationship, and to stop the sale of the winery in its tracks. She can focus on fixing everything but her own life. But eventually her own life needs to be examined too and she has to decide not only how she feels about Ben but also where she stands on trust, honesty, forgiveness, and being the most important person in someone else's life. As she faces all of these issues in her own relationship, everyone around her is facing variations of the same thing in their own lives. Told over the course of one week's time, the novel is both sweet and nuanced as Georgia learns more about her home and heart. The technicalities of winemaking are interesting, even for a non-oenophile. Georgia as a character is sometimes frustrating, with her desire to stick her head in the sand but her hurting is genuine feeling and the whole of the story feels authentic. The ending is predictable from very early on but it is still the right ending for the story. Dave has written a yummy novel about relationships: family relationships that are broken but hopefully not irretrievably and the importance of recognizing and honoring the special, beloved people in our lives. It's a very fast read, one that reminds us to value the people we love each and every day.

For more information on Laura Dave and the book, visit her webpage, like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter. Check out the book's GoodReads page. For others' opinions on the book, check it out on Amazon.

Thanks to the publisher and BookSparks PR for sending me a copy of the book for review.

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