It takes, apparently, about 800 grapes to make a single bottle of wine. And, just as a bottle of wine is the sum of all these individual grapes, so is a family the sum of its individual members.
With “Eight Hundred Grapes,” Laura Dave has harvested a compulsively readable story about vineyards and families. Right from the start she makes it clear this is a novel about synchronization.
“Synchronization: The coordination of events to operate in union.. . .
Don’t confuse it with fate. Fate suggests no agency. Synchronization is all about agency. It involves all systems running in a state where different parts of the system are almost, if not precisely, ready.”
Georgia Ford is a week away from her wedding when she discovers that her fiancé, Ben, has kept a life-altering secret in the form of a four-and-a-half-year-old daughter from her. To make matters worse, Maddie is the daughter of Ben’s previous girlfriend, the world’s “most beautiful” actress.
After discovering this by chance, Georgia flees from LA to Sebastopol in the Sonoma Valley where her family has a small but highly prized vineyard. Seeking comfort, she finds none. Her twin brothers are at odds, her parents’ lives are unraveling and the future of the vineyard is far from certain. Georgia’s family members are seriously out of sync.
“Desychronization. Your fiancé lands his dream job on the other side of the world only to find out he has a daughter down the block, her mother still in love with him. Your mother is tired of doing too much work in her marriage at the exact moment someone returns to her life promising to do all the work instead.
Everything seemed to be lining up so the wrong people were together. So the right ones were apart.”
Georgia is a smart and snappy narrator and reading her story is akin to downing a smooth glass of Pinot Noir. Like a great wine, the story masterfully blends many grace notes together. But, gulping “Eight Hundred Grapes” down delivers a touch of a hangover. Was it really necessary to make the mother of Ben’s daughter such an over-the-top celebrity? Would anyone really dither about whether her fiancé were “trustworthy” after learning he had concealed such a colossal secret? Would devoted parents really conceal so many secrets from their grown children?
These are minor complaints. The bigger and more important questions are: Will Georgia forgive and marry Ben? Will the vineyard fall into unworthy hands? Will the Ford family function as a family again? These Dave handles deftly while giving a delicious peek into the inner workings of a small vineyard.
“Eight Hundred Grapes” is available at amazon.com and at your favorite New York bookstores.