In keeping with our June wedding theme, I decided to review I Always Cry at Weddings, the debut novel of Sara Goff. Before writing her first book, Goff was a New York City fashion designer and merchandiser. She left that career after seven years because she wanted to make a difference in the world. In 2010, Goff founded the global educational charity Lift the Lid, Inc. It supports underprivileged schools and encourages young people to exercise their creative expression through writing. A portion of the proceeds from her novel go to support Lift the Lid.
Blessed with a dream job in Manhattan working in the fashion industry and a handsome fiancé, Ava seems to lead a charmed life. She and Josh are ready for the big day – a wedding fit for royalty planned and paid for by Josh’s parents. All Ava has to do is show up for her final fittings and smile, but the courthouse civil ceremony of one of her friends becomes the wake-up call Ava never saw coming.
Can a couple be happy without the pomp and circumstance? Ava sees in her friend’s relationship all the things missing from her own. It’s the way they look at each other. It’s the focus on their relationship… even their vow to wait to have sex until they are married. When Josh laughs at her concerns and continues to focus on his wants and his career, Ava realizes he’s not the one.
Ava’s mom who is battling cancer understands and applauds Ava’s decision, because her marriage to Ava’s dad ended for similar reasons years before she found the one. Everyone else, including Josh and his mom, tries to convince Ava it’s just wedding jitters.
Ava’s repeated attempts to explain her decision to her dad, her friends and work associates fall flat. Her ex-future mother-in-law whom she adores is especially hurt. Walking away weeks before the wedding leaves her in serious debt – a debt her ex-future in-laws insist is her responsibility. She cancels the wedding vendors, sends cancellation notices to the guests, but drops the ball at work making a critical mistake that gets her fired.
How will Ava get out from under this crippling debt with no job? How will she find a meaningful relationship when she’s not even sure what she wants out of life?
After Ava’s mom passes away, she begins to regain clarity about her own life. Her mother never compromised and pursued her passion by teaching and playing music. She married a man who supported her dreams while pursuing his own. Her mom never needed the latest fashion accessory or lived for the next great social event. She was active in her church and dedicated her life to serving others…things Ava respected, but never seemed to have to do.
As Ava ponders a life away from power lunches and haute couture, she begins to notice the people around her including the homeless man who sleeps outside her building. Gradually she makes eye contact and acknowledges his existence.
It’s a pivotal moment in the story, but I have to say, Chris is the cleanest, sanest, most attractive homeless person, I’ve ever read about or seen in all the states I’ve lived in or visited. He has a dog and shops at Whole Foods. This was a sticking point for me, but Goff weaves such an interesting story around Chris and his circumstances that I forgive her.
What will be Ava’s passion in life and how will she use it to make a difference in the world? All roads can lead to happiness if you are willing to take that first step, but no spoilers here – you’ll have to read the book and find out.
I Always Cry at Weddings is available on amazon.com and local bookstores. She is currently working on the sequel.
Photo obtained from author’s website