All Happy Families (Harper Wave)

Los Angeles Review of Books and Skylight Books present Jeanne McCulloch and Laurie Winer. 

On a mid-August weekend in 1983, at a rambling family mansion on the beach in East Hampton, family and friends gather for a wedding. These are the area’s final days of refined country splendor--before traffic jams, high-end stores, hedge fund managers and celebrities morphed the area into "The Hamptons." Preparations for a picturesque wedding are well underway--the weather is perfect, the tent is on the lawn, the guests are en route when tragedy strikes. The father of the bride, and "paterfamilias" of the beachfront manse, suffers a massive stroke from alcohol withdrawal, and lies in a coma in the hospital in the next town. So begins Jeanne McCulloch’s long-awaited and stunning debut memoir, that’s certain to be this summer’s “must read,” All Happy Families. This intimate family saga (think The Nest meets The Glass Castle) gracefully brings us behind the dappled beachfront vista of privilege, to reveal the inner lives of two wonderfully colorful, unforgettable families.

“Later that afternoon, my mother would pin the family veil on my head. She’d mutter about how I should have let her get a proper hairdresser to tame my wild beach hair. Then she’d call the hospital and instruct them that no matter what happened that evening to her husband, they were not to call our house. Because, she went on to say, we were having a party,” writes McCulloch in this dreamy and beautiful story. Days later, instead of a planned honeymoon, wedding presents are stashed in the attic, arrangements are made for a funeral, and a team of lawyers arrive armed with papers for McCulloch and her siblings to sign. The repercussions of this shocking weekend ripple throughout the lives of McCulloch and her family, as well of her in-laws as they all grapple with questions of loyalty, tradition, marital honor, hope, and loss.

A lifetime in the making, All Happy Families is McCulloch’s entry into the other side of the literary process. As a former managing editor of the Paris Review and an editor at Tin House, she’s nurtured the early careers of an all-star roster of writers including David Foster Wallace, Ann Patchett, Jeffrey Eugenides, among others. Now she is ready to share her clear-eyed account of her struggle to find her own voice and finally tell her own story. Impressionistic, lyrical, at turns both witty and poignant, All Happy Families is an unforgettable look at a world where all that glitters on the surface is not gold, and each unhappy family is ultimately unhappy in its own unique way.

Praise for All Happy Families

“McCulloch provides an honest and sensitive portrayal of family dysfunction as well as an evocation of a dying world of old-money wealth and privilege. A poignantly intimate memoir”—Kirkus Reviews

“A bittersweet story and a wonderful look at upper-class New York City life.”—Publishers Weekly

“An eminently enjoyable take on infinite tangles and triumphs of family.”—Booklist

“McCulloch is as wise as she is funny, keen both to the ridiculous excesses of the moneyed class and to the evanescence of commercial beauty, while attentive to the intricate pains of alcoholism and love’s failures that afflict her characters, amidst the splendor.”—Mona Simpson, author of Casebook and My Hollywood

"In this elegant, searching memoir, Jeanne McCullouch peels back the glittering layers of privilege that comprise the surface of her family, and exposes the soft, complicated, tender core beneath. This is a beautiful book about love, loss, and the ravages of time. I adored it.”—Dani Shapiro, bestselling author of Hourglass, Still Writing, Devotion, and Slow Motion

“McCulloch's droll, deft and tender-hearted portrait of the steely matriarchal bonds that endure alcoholism and genteel masculine decay is a delightful addition to the literature of WASP manners. I loved it.”—John Seabrook, New Yorker staff writer and author of The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory

All Happy Families is a wry and poignant account of a doomed wedding, a house ‘on a perilous dune’ in the Hamptons, and a world of privilege at its vanishing point. Jeanne McCulloch’s take on the American aristocracy is informed by her sharp eye for any sign of pretentiousness and her uncanny ability to render the despair at the heart of every happy family. Think of her as an Edith Wharton for the twenty-first century: we need her wisdom now more than ever.”— Christopher Merrill, author of Self-Portrait with Dogwood

Jeanne McCulloch is a former managing editor of The Paris Review and senior editor of Tin House magazine. She is the founding Editorial Director of Tin House Books. Her fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The Paris Review, Tin House, The New York Times, O Magazine, Vogue, and the North American Review among other publications. She lives in New York.

Photo by Nina Subin

A founding editor at the L.A. Review of Books, Laurie Winer has been a drama critic for the Wall Street Journal and was chief theater critic at the Los Angeles Times, where she also worked on the magazine and in the food section. She has written for most major magazines, including the New Yorker, New York, Oprah, Harper's Bazaar and Harper's. Her first book, Song of Ourselves: Oscar Hammerstein II and the American Musical, is scheduled to be published next year by Yale University Press. She's known Jeanne McCulloch since before you were born.

Event date: 
Wednesday, September 26, 2018 - 7:30pm
Event address: 
1818 N Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
All Happy Families: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062234759
Availability: Not in stock. Available To Order.
Published: Harper Wave - August 14th, 2018