Cancel the Wedding by Carolyn T. Dingman ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: summer, South, mothers/daughters, family secrets, romance, marriage
Format read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss (Thanks!)
Summary: Olivia escapes her job and fiancee to head off to a small town in Georgia to find out about her mother’s childhood, and discovers more than she expected… about her family and herself.
I think we’ve all probably hit a point in our life where we wish we could press pause, take a major break, and decompress.
In the world of fiction, this is possible for Olivia who leaves town as her fiancee tries to pin down a date for their long-time-coming wedding and decides to use the first year anniversary of her mother’s death to do it. She wanted her ashes spread into spots in her childhood hometown, a childhood that her mother (Janie) never shared with Olivia or her sister, Georgia.
So she’s really killing two birds on this impromptu road trip with her niece, Logan. Find out why her mom made these specific instructions and figure out if marriage to Leo and her demanding job is truly what she wants for her life.
I was immediately swept up in the small town of Huntley, Georgia. Debut author Carolyn Dingman painted such a charming portrait of the place where Janie grew up — down to the charming details of the building, the vast lake, and the friendly people. I was ready to head down there myself. The town is so tiny that it doesn’t take many to find a person who recognizes Janie’s last name, and soon the cute newspaper editor, Elliot, is part of the research team too.
Piece by piece, Olivia is formulating a family tree she never knew existed, learning about the fascinating history of the town (Tennessee Valley Authority Act!!) her mother never wanted to talk about. I was totally hooked to this mystery (pretty creeped out at times), and loved as each part of the story clicked into place. Never predictable, Dingman kept me curious throughout the entire book. In fact, Cancel the Wedding was one of those books I kept thinking about when I was not reading it. (Isn’t this torturous sometimes?!)
As if Olivia’s life isn’t messy enough, she starts to feel completely at home in Georgia. It’s so unexpected and she’s so wrapped up in her mom’s story, that she doesn’t necessarily pay her “true life” the attention it needs. Avoiding Leo, discounting her sister’s advice, and even dismissing some of her niece’s own admissions. (This teen was smart.) You knew that reality was going to slap her in the face soon, and eee, I was nervous nervous nervous. But, at the same time, totally torn because I loved as she and Logan acclimated to life down South, Olive’s growing affection for Elliot, and how each discovery about her mother made her own life snap into better focus bit by bit.
It just that the whole “getting answers” part took longer than the people in her life wanted it to.
Honestly, the only drawback to Cancel the Wedding were the areas where the author decided to explain confrontations instead of present more dialogue. It made it a little difficult to hear the voices of the characters, and also to connect. I wouldn’t have minded an even longer story if there was a bit less exposition and more showing.
Despite that, the book was just so darn readable. I could not get enough of this sweet small town (the history was so impressive), the colorful supporting characters, budding romance, and a main character finding the bravery to put her life on the path she wants — even if that means making hard decisions later rather than sooner.
Cancel the Wedding is the perfect read for your summer getaway.