Desert Wedding is a riff on the classic chick-lit wedding story. It takes on the, oftentimes bizarre, rites of passage that come with getting engaged and married, told through the lens of two best friends—Elsie and Res—living in Phoenix, Arizona.
Res works a retail job and has been engaged for about a year to her finance, David. She starts off very passive and accommodating but the process of planning her wedding brings out her stubborn side. Her partner in crime and best friend is Elsie, a rising star in Arizona government. Elsie is rough around the edges with a biting wit, and it’s difficult for her to maintain objectivity when it comes to some to the vapid rituals associated with weddings. Elsie’s boyfriend Jonah is almost the female version of Res, very quiet, patient, and accommodating. But Elsie’s strong personality may be too much for him, and the book takes you through a critical point in their relationship.
After planning my own wedding I had a very clear sense of why I needed to write this book. There is so much friction that goes on during this process and at the end I realized it was all a necessary part of the experience. The arguments aren’t really over the invitations or the flower arrangements but about your role as a part of a new, emerging family. I wanted to write about that journey. We like to hide the friction and focus on the window dressing, but it’s really that friction that can make a wedding such a life-changing event.
These characters are exaggerated fragments of personalities from my life. Certain characteristics of Res, for example, are based off of someone very familiar to me. Elsie is my shrew, a compilation of women I’ve run into over the years who have a take-no-prisoner attitude. It was a challenge at times to make her likable, but I think her relationship with the sweet, accommodating Res is an important one. It teaches her to catch flies with honey and soften up some of her aggression.
The book is definitely a love letter to Phoenix, the hot spots, the activities—these girls do a lot of shopping. It’s an outdoor culture, despite the heat, and the climate is always a huge topic of conversation. I spent some time in the southwest and wanted to capture the resort-like culture that permeates the area.
Phoenix is where these girls found the freedom to live independently. This is the city they are building their careers in, their reputations. I think it means something to them to be able to find enjoyment in their careers but also in their chosen city. Their jobs are also an integral part of the book. These girls are in the 20s, very focused on their careers. Phoenix is bursting with opportunity and these girls are making their mark and defining who they are at work. It’s a time in my life I remembered well and wanted to retell.
Penny Kim is a Washington, DC lurker and resident of Alexandria, Virginia. She is active in several area book groups that span several genres, from murder mysteries to chick lit and beyond. Currently working on her second book, her debut novel “Desert Wedding” is a compelling coming of age story for the Millennium generation.
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