We Are Gathered: A Novel

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt  2018

 

On a sunny afternoon in Atlanta, Georgia, a bride and groom prepare for their outdoor wedding ceremony. The beautiful bride, Elizabeth Gottlieb, an alumna of the University of Virginia and Emory University Law School, is descended from several generations of elite Atlanta Jewish families. The groom, Hank Jackson, has fewer connections in the Jewish community and does not even openly identify as a Jew.

Skillfully told through multiple first-person narratives, We Are Gathered portrays not only the couple’s story, but also—or rather, primarily—the stories of their friends and family. Carla, the sharp-witted and unusual looking bridesmaid and childhood friend of Elizabeth, narrates the first chapter. Her story, one of a reversal of fortune, arguably garners the most attention in the novel. After Carla, we hear from Mr. Albert Gottlieb, grandfather of the bride. His honest and authoritative voice powerfully disrupts, but also nurtures. Subsequently, we hear from Helen Wolf, whose son suffers from ALS. She tells a heart-wrenching story about her love for her son and for her family. Next, we hear from Jack Chandler, a non-Jewish friend of the Gottlieb family who first met Josh Gottlieb, the father of the bride, in college in the 1960s. His story explains how remaining close to the Gottlieb family for decades has affected his life. After Jack, we hear from Steven Shapiro, a medical school dropout and former classmate of Elizabeth; her wedding proves to be a rather emotional experience for him. Next, Rachel Rosenblatt, a Holocaust survivor, tells her story. Then we hear from Annette, the mother of the bride, who explains her own views on love, adulthood, and the marriage of her daughter.

Jamie Weisman adroitly constructs a community of characters, each created with a private network of thoughts and feelings, hopes and dreams. While the absence of a timeline in the story might confuse readers, Weisman nevertheless paints a masterful portrait of both sharp and delicate beauty.



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