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The Wedding Machine (Women of Faith Fiction) Paperback – February 5, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this engrossing novel with weddings as the centerpiece, Hart (Adelaide Piper; Grace at Low Tide) explores the relationships between women, daughters and husbands. Four high school girls bond in the small low-country town of Jasper, S.C. Now middle-aged members of All Saints Episcopal Church, they happily plan weddings for their loved ones that bring about unanticipated turns of events. It's a bumpy road: still grieving the loss of her true love, Elizabeth Sis Mims relies on her happy pills and contemplates dating the minister. Ray Montgomery's daughter wants to marry a preacher's son in a tacky contemporary strip mall church that offends Ray's desire to be exquisitely correct. Hilda Prescott mourns her divorce, and Kitty B. Blalock wrestles with her husband's lingering maladies. Sis muses, Well, that's the way it is with weddings and life in general... one near disaster after another and a whole lot of what some call ignorant bliss. Occasionally Hart overdescribes, and there are faint echoes of Steel Magnolias and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood throughout, but Hart's writing is lovely, her characters endearing, and humor leavens the darker moments. Midlife women will find plenty to relate to, and the wedding plot line is an invitation to myriad details on food, decorations and points of Southern etiquette. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

For decades in Jasper, South Carolina, every wedding has been planned according to long-standing customs. The women who guard these traditions, the Wedding Guild, have been friends since girlhood and now it’s the summer of their daughters’ weddings. Ray, the group’s leader, uses her perfectionist tendencies to mask her lower-class past. Sis lets memories of her long-dead fiancé keep her from new love. Kitty B. spends so much effort on her hypochondriac husband, she’s forgotten to take care of herself. Hilda, once the princess of Jasper, has become a recluse since her divorce. The friends must band together to keep their town’s customs—and their own dreams—thriving. Hart, the author of Grace at Low Tide (2005) and Adelaide Piper (2006), uses Christian themes in her fiction but avoids being sanctimonious. This is a pleasing exploration of female friendship that brings to mind Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (1996). --Aleksandra Walker
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (February 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595541993
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595541994
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,104,439 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Beth Webb Hart, a South Carolina native, holds a B.A. in English Literature from Hollins College and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Her first novel, Grace at Low Tide, was one of three finalists for the 2006 Christy Awards in the general/contemporary/fiction category. Her second novel, Adelaide Piper, was selected for Books-a-Million's book club and for their national book of the month for December, 2006. Both titles were included in the "Top 10 Christian Novels of 2006" by Booklist, the American Library Association's review journal. Hart's third novel, The Wedding Machine, became an ECPA best-seller in July of 2008.
Beth Webb lectures on a variety of topics and has taught creative writing on the college and high school level where she received two national awards from Scholastic, Inc. She lives with her husband, composer Edward Hart, and their children in Charleston, South Carolina where she teaches English and Creative Writing at Ashley Hall.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By L. Hughes on March 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
In TWM, BWH pokes fun at her own background in a respectful, endearing manner. I laughed out loud so many times, my husband would ask me what I was reading. When I read to him, he would comment that it sounded JUST like his mama and her dear friends. How great it would be to grow older with sisters like the friends in this book!

I'm a midwestern girl married to a lowcountry boy. Southern customs have often seemed a bit foreign and formal to me. (At our wedding, my side of the church arrived on motorcycles. His arrived in white tie and tuxedos!) TWM gave me first-hand insight into the meaning behind the traditions, and it reminded me that we all have more in common than we realize. I especially loved reading that even middle-aged "church ladies" can grow in faith. It gave me hope that God will continue to stretch me over the years.

My favorite theme of TWM is "judgement". I was much too quick to judge these characters and their values as being shallow. (Was I doing this in real life??) Each of them had judged the other based on the superficial. They even judged a church based on outward appearance! How often we do this! By only focusing on the surface, you could even miss the deeper meanings of this book! (possibly even miss the point? :)) Though our own Christian and regional traditions differ, a deeper Truth unites us.

I almost subtracted a few stars due to the unfortunate treatment of the Jack Russel Terrier. Everyone who loves these little guys KNOWS that they could tear up any ol' gator! Otherwise I highly recommend The Wedding Machine. A great read, especially "below the surface."
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amy Smith on March 3, 2008
Format: Paperback
Beth Webb Hart's mastery of character development and attention to details in describing her characters' environments never fail to capture my imagination--and The Wedding Machine has successfully captured me once again! I have eagerly awaited the next story that this charming Southern author poured out and ever since I have had it in my hands, I have been lapping it up! I see myself and my friends--and my mother and her contemporaries--in these four characters. Beth Webb Hart has once again 'hit the nail on the head' in depicting the intimate details, struggles, joys and challenges that her characters face.

If you aren't from the South and wonder whether her descriptions of people and places and events are accurate, wonder no longer. She knows of what she speaks!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JerseyGirl VINE VOICE on June 29, 2011
Format: Paperback
Four women, Sis, Hilda, Ray and Kitty B. have all been friends since their teenage years in the small southern town of Jasper, SC. This is a well written book that captures small town southern life.

The book opens with a scene from the 1960's and the four women are soon married and having children. The story moves to the present day and the four friends have grown children who are of marriageable age. Ray is the head of the group and she oversees parties and weddings for the group. Since several of the women have daughters who are getting married, the book centers around the wedding planning for their children.

Each of the women has a story to tell about their life, their marriages and their families and growing up southern. Hilda sews for the group and makes a wedding gown for one of the women. Kitty B. is a fantastic cook and bakes for the weddings and the parties that Ray oversees. Sis is the local church organist and music teacher; she plays the music for the functions over which the group presides.

I found the book very enjoyable and a wonderful depiction of small town southern life. The writing and dialogue are believeable and authentic. Each of the women's stories are very interesting as well. A good 4 star story!
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Format: Paperback
Readers familiar with Beth Webb Hart will have no trouble recalling her previous titles, GRACE AT LOW TIDE and ADELAIDE PIPER. Both books made Booklist's top 10 Christian fiction books in 2006, and with good reason: Hart's writing style was utterly exquisite, and her skill as a storyteller matched her style.

THE WEDDING MACHINE represents something of a departure from her previous works, centered as they were on the interior lives of two young women. Make no mistake, the setting is still the South Carolina Low Country, and Hart's Southern sensibilities emerge once again in her descriptions of both the social structure of a small town in the South and the low country itself. But here the focus is on a group of four longtime female friends, now in middle age with daughters to marry off.

Hilda, Ray, Sis and Kitty B. have inherited from their mothers the task of organizing Jasper's weddings, at least within their own social circle and the congregation of All Saints Episcopal Church. Known as the Wedding Guild, the four women have this whole wedding thing down to a science. If anything upsets the proceedings, it won't be due to a lack of planning on their part. Every detail, down to the Krazy Glue in the emergency wedding-day box, has been carefully attended to by the human "wedding machine."

Things get hairy, though, one summer when the machine begins to break down. Hilda, who has been holed up in her house ever since her husband left her nearly two years earlier, makes an appearance just long enough to stir things up before hiding herself away once again. Ray faces a crisis of monumental proportions --- given her Southern upbringing, that is --- when her daughter makes the mistake of her life, to Ray's way of thinking.
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