Monday, September 28, 2009

Book Review: "Three Weddings and a Bar Mitzvah" by Melody Carlson

In the final installment in the 86 Bloomberg Place series, Melody Carlson follows the girls in a crazed competition for bridesmaids, wedding locations, and showers. Newly engaged Lelani has returned from Maui to Bloomberg Place and is trying to book her wedding date. Unfortunately there are scheduling conflicts for that same weekend. For starters, Megan and Marcus have a family wedding commitment. Anna and Edmond have promised to attend his younger stepbrother’s Bar Mitzvah and, to everyone’s surprise, Kendall has just accepted her “Maui Man’s” proposal of marriage and also wants to be wed on that first weekend in June. Wedding madness ensues at 86 Bloomberg Place, yet at the same time friendships are being forged that will last a lifetime.

Wedding bells are ringing at 86 Bloomberg Place as Lelani begins to prepare for her wedding to Gil. As someone who's recently finished with her own wedding, I totally understand the importance and struggle of trying to have a small wedding. To me, weddings are supposed to be a celebration of a marriage and the union of two people who love each other. They are NOT supposed to be a party where you invite anyone and everyone just so they don't feel left out. For that reason, I just kept getting irritated with Gil's mother for trying to go against every one of Lelani's and Gil's wishes. On the other hand, I was really proud of the couple of standing up to her. I hate seeing people become doormats during wedding season! The girls were run to read as everyone's trying to prepare for the celebration. I really like seeing how they've grown since their arrival at house 86. Each one of them has matured and has found their niche in life and has taken full advantage of it. Once again there's lots of humor in this book, and for the most part I can really relate to these girls. They are my age and do things that I would do and like things I like. As I've said before I would have loved to share a house with them.

The only thing I didn't really like was that I felt Kendall's marriage is extremely rushed. I know that she had matured a bit since the beginning of the series, especially due to the baby. However, she's still not really that responsible to me and her rushing into marriage like this doesn't seem very wise at all. It doesn't help that her parents are very good people to turn to in times like this and don't have that much advice to give her. Her roommates try to advise when they can but even still, it feels like this might end up being a mistake. There's also the fact that this seems to be a long distance relationship that hasn't taken time to fully grow and it's not even really mentioned how often the couple has seen each other. One off beat note is that the bar mitzvah is not really a big factor in the story as the title seems to imply.


Other than this, I have really enjoyed reading this entire series. I have felt that I have gotten to know the girls really well and I shall miss reading about them and their adventures. This is probably the chick lit-tiest of all of Melody's books and I think that it has appeal to the general market as well. I hope that she'll be writing another series in this same fashion again.

Three Wedding and a Bar Mitzvah by Melody Carlson is published by David C. Cook (2009)

Here is the first chapter of the book


Megan Abernathy


“Okay, then, how does the second Saturday in June look?” Anna asked her housemates.


Megan frowned down at her date book spread open on the dining room table. She and Anna had been trying to nail a date for Lelani and Gil's wedding. Megan had already been the spoiler of the first weekend of June, but she'd already promised her mom that she'd go to a family reunion in Washington. Now it seemed she was about to mess things up again. “I'm sorry,” she said, “but I promised Marcus I'd go to his sister's wedding. It's been scheduled for almost a year now, and it's the second Saturday too. But maybe I can get out of it.”


Lelani just shook her head as she quietly rocked Emma in her arms, pacing back and forth between the living room and dining room. The baby was teething and fussy and overdue for her afternoon nap. Megan wasn't sure if Lelani's frustrated expression was a result of wedding planning or her baby's mood.


“Is it possible you could do both weddings in one day?” Anna asked Megan.


“That might work.” Megan picked up her datebook and followed Lelani into the living room, where she continued to rock Emma.


“Or we could look at the third weekend in June,” Anna called from the dining room.


“Shhh.” Megan held a forefinger over her lips to signal Anna that Emma was finally about to nod off. Megan waited and watched as Emma's eyes fluttered closed and Lelani gently eased the limp baby down into the playpen set up in a corner of the living room. Lelani pushed a dark lock of hair away from Emma's forehead, tucked a fuzzy pink blanket over her, then finally stood up straight and sighed.


“Looks like she's down for the count,” Megan whispered.


Lelani nodded. “Now, where were we with dates?”


“If you still want to go with the second Saturday,” Megan spoke quietly, “Anna just suggested that it might be possible for me to attend two weddings in one day.”


“That's a lot to ask of you,” Lelani said as they returned to the dining room, where Anna and Kendall were waiting expectantly with the calendar in the middle of the table and opened to June.


Megan shrugged as she pulled out a chair. “It's your wedding, Lelani. You should have it the way you want it. I just want to help.”


Anna pointed to the second Saturday. “Okay, this is the date in question. Is it doable or not?”


Lelani sat down and sighed. “I'm willing to schedule my wedding so that it's not a conflict with the other one. I mean, if it can even be done. Mostly I just wanted to wait until I finished spring term.”


“What time is Marcus's sister's wedding?” asked Anna.


“I'm not positive, but I think he said it was in the evening.” She reached for her phone.


“And you want a sunset wedding,” Kendall reminded Lelani.


“That's true.” Anna nodded.


“But I also want Megan to be there,” Lelani pointed out.


“That would be helpful, since she's your maid of honor,” said Anna.


Megan tried not to bristle at the tone of Anna's voice. She knew that Anna had been put a little out of sorts by Lelani's choice--especially considering that Anna was the sister of the groom--but to be fair, Megan was a lot closer to Lelani than Anna was. And at least they were all going to be in the wedding.


“Let me ask Marcus about the time,” Megan said as she pressed his speed-dial number and waited. “Hey, Marcus,” she said when he finally answered. “We're having a scheduling problem here. Do you know what time Hannah's wedding is going to be?”


“In the evening, I think,” Marcus said. “Do you need the exact time?”


“No, that's good enough.” Megan gave Lelani a disappointed look. “I'll talk to you later, okay?”


“You're not thinking of bailing on me, are you?” He sounded genuinely worried.


“No, but we're trying to pin down a time and date for Lelani.”


“It's just that I really want my family to meet you, Megan. I mean all of my family. And I want you to meet them too.”


“I know, and I plan to go with you.”


“Thanks. So, I'll see you around six thirty tonight?”


“That's right.” Megan told him good-bye, then turned to Lelani with a sigh. “I'm sorry,” she told her. “That wedding's at night too. Maybe I should blow off my family reunion so that you--”


“No.” Anna pointed to the calendar. “I just realized that the first Saturday in June is also my mother's birthday.”


“So?” Kendall shrugged. “What's wrong with that?”


Megan laughed. “Think about it, Kendall, how would you like to share your wedding anniversary with your mother-in-law's birthday?”


Kendall grinned. “Oh, yeah. Maybe not.”


“How about a Sunday wedding?” suggested Megan.


“Sunday?” Lelani's brow creased slightly as she weighed this.


“Sunday might make it easier to book the location,” Kendall said. “I mean, since most weddings are usually on Saturdays, and June is a pretty busy wedding month.”


“That's true,” agreed Megan.


“And you gotta admit that this is short notice for planning a wedding,” added Kendall. “Some people say you should start planning your wedding a whole year ahead of time.”


“Marcus's sister has been planning her wedding for more than a year,” Megan admitted. “Marcus says that Hannah is going to be a candidate for the Bridezillas show if she doesn't lighten up.”


They all laughed.


“Well, there's no way Gil and I are going to spend a year planning a wedding.” Lelani shook her head. “That's fine for some people, but we're more interested in our marriage than we are in our wedding.”


“I hear you.” Kendall laughed and patted her slightly rounded belly. She was in her fifth month of the pregnancy. They all knew that she and her Maui man, Killiki, were corresponding regularly, but despite Kendall's high hopes there'd been no proposal.


“I really don't see why it should take a year to plan a wedding,” Megan admitted. “I think that's just the wedding industry's way of lining their pockets.”


“So how much planning time do you have now anyway?” Kendall asked Lelani. “Like three months?”


“Not even.” Lelani flipped the calendar pages back. “It's barely two now.”


“Which is why we need to nail this date today,” Megan said. “Even though it's a small wedding--”


“And that remains to be seen,” Anna reminded her. “My mother's list keeps growing and growing and growing.”


“I still think it might be easier to just elope,” Lelani reminded them. “I told Gil that I wouldn't have a problem with that at all.”


“Yes, that would be brilliant.” Anna firmly shook her head. “You can just imagine how absolutely thrilled Mom would be about that little idea.”


Lelani smiled. “I actually thought she'd be relieved.”


“That might've been true a few months ago. But Mom's changing.” Anna poked Lelani in the arm. “In fact, I'm starting to feel jealous. I think she likes you better than me now.”


Lelani giggled. “In your dreams, Anna. Your mother just puts up with me so she can have access to Emma.”


They all laughed about that. Everyone knew that Mrs. Mendez was crazy about her soon-to-be granddaughter. Already she'd bought Emma all kinds of clothes and toys and seemed totally intent on spoiling the child rotten.


“Speaking of Emma”--Kendall shook her finger--“Mrs. Mendez is certain that she's supposed to have her on Monday. But I thought it was my day.”


“I'm not sure,” Lelani admitted. “But I'll call and find out.”


“And while you've got Granny on the line,” continued Kendall, “tell her that I do know how to change diapers properly. One more diaper lecture and I might just tape a Pamper over that big mouth of hers. Sheesh!”


They all laughed again. Since coming home from Maui, Kendall had been complaining about how Mrs. Mendez always seemed to find fault with Kendall's childcare abilities. In fact, Mrs. Mendez had spent the first week “teaching” Kendall the “proper” way to do almost everything.


To be fair, Megan didn't blame the older woman. Megan had been a little worried about Kendall too. But to everyone's surprise, Kendall turned out to be rather maternal. Whether it had to do with her own pregnancy or a hidden talent, Megan couldn't decide, but Kendall's skill had been a huge relief.


“Now, back to the wedding date,” said Lelani.


“Yes,” agreed Megan. “What about earlier on Saturday?”


“Oh, no,” Anna said. “I just remembered that I promised Edmond I'd go to his brother's bar mitzvah on that same day--I think it's in the morning.”


Lelani groaned.


“Edmond's brother?” Megan frowned. “I thought he was an only child. And since when is he Jewish?”


“Remember, his mom remarried,” Anna told her. “And Philip Goldstein, her new husband, is Jewish, and he has a son named Ben whose bar mitzvah is that Saturday.” She sighed. “I'm sorry, Lelani.”


“So Saturday morning is kaput,” Megan said.


“And Lelani wanted a sunset wedding anyway,” Anna repeated.


“So why can't you have a sunset wedding on Sunday?” Kendall suggested.


“That's an idea.” Megan turned back to Lelani. “What do you think?”


Lelani nodded. “I think that could work.”


“And here's another idea!” Anna exclaimed. “If the wedding was on Sunday night, you could probably have the reception in the restaurant afterward. I'm guessing it would be late by the time the wedding was over, and Sunday's not exactly a busy night.”


Lelani looked hopeful. “Do you think your parents would mind?”


“Mind? Are you kidding? That's what my mother lives for.”


“But we still don't have a place picked for the wedding,” Megan said.


“I have several outdoor locations in mind. I'll start checking on them tomorrow.”


“We'll have to pray that it doesn't rain.” Megan penned 'Lelani and Gil's Wedding' in her date book, then closed it.


“Should there be a backup plan?” asked Anna. “I'm sure my parents could have the wedding at their house.”


“Or here,” suggested Kendall. “You can use this house if you want.”


Anna frowned. “It's kind of small, don't you think?”


“I think it's sweet of Kendall to offer.” Lelani smiled at Kendall.


“I can imagine a bride coming down those stairs,” Kendall nodded toward the staircase. “I mean, if it was a small wedding.”


“I'll keep it in mind,” Lelani told her. “And your parents' house too.”


“It might be tricky getting a church reserved on a Sunday night,” Megan looked at the clock. “And speaking of that, I better get ready. Marcus is picking me up for the evening service in about fifteen minutes.” She turned back to Lelani. “Don't worry. I've got my to-do list and I'll start checking on some of this stuff tomorrow. My mom will want to help with the flowers.”


“And my aunt wants to make the cake,” Anna reminded them.


“Sounds like you're in good hands,” Kendall sad a bit wistfully. “I wonder how it would go if I was planning my wedding.”


“You'd be in good hands too,” Lelani assured her.


“Now, let's start going over that guest list,” Anna said as Megan stood up. “The sooner we get it finished, the less chance my mother will have of adding to it.” Megan was relieved that Anna had offered to handle the invitations. She could have them printed at the publishing company for a fraction of the price that a regular printer would charge, and hopefully she'd get them sent out in the next couple of weeks.


As Megan changed from her weekend sweats into something presentable, she wondered what would happen with Lelani's parents when it was time for the big event. Although her dad had promised to come and was already committed to paying Lelani's tuition to finish med school, Lelani's mom was still giving Lelani the cold shoulder. Make that the ice shoulder. For a woman who lived in the tropics, Mrs. Porter was about as chilly as they come. Still, Lelani had friends to lean on. Maybe that was better than family at times.


“Your prince is here,” Kendall called into Megan's room.


“Thanks.” Megan was looking for her other loafer and thinking it was time to organize her closet again. “Tell him I'm coming.”


When Megan came out, Marcus was in the dining room, chatting with her housemates like one of the family. He was teasing Anna for having her hair in curlers, then joking with Kendall about whether her Maui man had called her today.


“Not yet,” Kendall told him with a little frown. “But don't forget the time-zone thing. It's earlier there.”


“Speaking of time zones,” Lelani said to Marcus. “Did I hear you're actually thinking about going to Africa?”


Marcus grinned and nodded. “Yeah, Greg Mercer, this guy at our church, is trying to put together a mission trip to Zambia. I might go too.”


“Wow, that's a long ways away.” Kendall turned to Megan. “How do you feel about that?”


Megan shrugged as she pulled on her denim jacket. “I think it's cool.”


“Are you coming with us to church tonight, Kendall?” Marcus asked. “Greg is going to show a video about Zambia.”


“Sorry to miss that,” Kendall told him. “But Killiki is supposed to call.”


“Ready to roll?” Megan nodded up to the clock.


He grinned at her. “Yep.” But before they went out, he turned around. “That is, unless anyone else wants to come tonight.”


Lelani and Anna thanked him but said they had plans. Even so, Megan was glad he'd asked. It was nice when Kendall came with them occasionally. And Lelani had come once too. Really, it seemed that God was at work at 86 Bloomberg Place. Things had changed a lot since last fall.


“So are you nervous?” Marcus asked as he drove toward the city.


“Nervous?” Megan frowned. “About church?”


“No. The big interview.”


Megan slapped her forehead. “Wow, I temporarily forgot. We were so obsessed with Lelani's wedding today, trying to make lists, plan everything, and settle the date … I put the interview totally out of my mind.”


“Hopefully, it won't be out of your mind by Monday.”


“No, of course not.”


“So … are you nervous?”


Megan considered this. It would be her first interview for a teaching job. And it was a little unsettling. “The truth is, I don't think I have a chance at the job,” she admitted. “And, yes, I'm nervous. Thanks for reminding me.”


“Sorry. Why don't you think you'll get the job?”


“Because I don't have any actual teaching experience.” She wanted to add duh, but thought it sounded a little juvenile.


“Everyone has to start somewhere.”


“But starting in middle school, just a couple of months before the school year ends? Don't you think they'll want someone who knows what they're doing?”


“Unless they want someone who's enthusiastic and energetic and smart and creative and who likes kids and had lots of great new ideas and--”


“Wow, any chance you could do the interview in my place?”


“Cross-dress and pretend I'm you?”


She laughed. “Funny.”


“Just have confidence, Megan. Believe in yourself and make them believe too. You'd be great as a middle-school teacher.”


“What makes you so sure?”


“Because I remember middle school.”


“And?”


“And most of my teachers were old and dull and boring.”


“That's sad.”


“And I would've loved having someone like you for a teacher.”


“Really?”


He chuckled. “Yeah. If I was thirteen, I'd probably sit right in the front row and think about how hot you were, and then I'd start fantasizing about--”


“Marcus Barrett, you're pathetic.” Just the same, she laughed.


“What can I say? I'm just a normal, warm-blooded, American kid.”


“Give me a break!” She punched him in the arm.


“Is that your phone?” he asked as he was parking outside of the church.


“Oh, yeah, a good reminder to turn it off.” She pulled it out to see it was Kendall. Megan hoped nothing was wrong. “Hey, Kendall,” she said as Marcus set the parking brake. “What's up?”


“Guess what?” shrieked Kendall.


“I have no idea what, but it sounds like good news.” She stepped out of the car.


“Killiki just called.”


“That's nice.”


“And he asked me to marry him!”


Megan raised her eyebrows and looked at Marcus as he came around to meet her. “And you said yes?”


“Of course! Do you think I'm crazy?”


“No. Not at all. Congratulations, Kendall. I mean, I guess that's what you say.”


“So now we have two weddings to plan.”


Megan blinked. She walked with Marcus toward the church entry. “Oh, yeah, I guess we do.”


“And I'm getting married in June too!”


“That's great, Kendall. I'm really, really happy for you. And Killiki seems like a great guy.”


“He is! Anyway, we just looked at the calendar again. And we finally figured that I should just get married the same day as Lelani, only I'll get married in the morning. That way we'll all be able to go to both weddings.”


“Wow, the same day?”


“Otherwise, you'll be at your reunion or Marcus's sister's wedding. Or Anna will be at the bar mitzvah. Or Lelani and Gil will be on their honeymoon.”


“Oh, that's right.”


“And I want all of you there!”


“Yes, I suppose that makes sense.”


“It'll be busy, but fun.”


“Definitely.” Then Megan thanked Kendall for telling her, and they said good-bye. Megan closed her phone and just shook her head. “Wow.”


“Kendall's getting married?” asked Marcus as he held the church door open for her.


“Yes. Can you believe it?”


“Good for her.”


“And her wedding will be the same weekend as your sister's and the same day as Lelani's.”


Marcus held up three fingers and wore a perplexed expression. “Three weddings in one weekend? That's crazy.”


“Yep.” Megan nodded. “Three weddings and a bar mitzvah.”


“Huh?” Marcus looked confused, but they were in the sanctuary, and Megan knew she'd have to explain later.


©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Three Weddings and a Bar Mitzvah by Melody Carlson. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

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