Eight Hundred Grapes: A Novel by Laura Dave
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It would be easy to choose a character, give her a conflict, provide a setting, and fill in the holes with peripheral characters while telling a story. If this were true of this book, I would have been bored senseless. Particularly if the book was truly about making wine. I'll be totally honest here. I know next to nothing about wine. Give me a glass of wine and I will spray it on the first sip. Why do people purposely drink mold? Yeah, seriously a non drinker here. So you can see where I might not appreciate a story about a vineyard that makes wine.
It's not about the wine.
Dan is a scientist turned vineyard owner who knows the proper formula for a good wine, including the number of grapes to make a bottle. Jen is a symphony cellist. They fall in love and begin in 1979 with the winery, house, kids, life. Georgia is the third child with older twin brothers. Every year they turn up for the harvest where they count on traditions and the stability of the family and the business relying heavily on synchronization of events to operate in union. Synchronization is not fate but agency. Yet for a good harvest, all things must be in synchronization; the soil, weather, their health, help, and relationships.
Georgia is in a crisis as her choice of most important relationship implodes. She craves the predictable harvest and relationships. Unfortunately, every relationship is being redefined when she needs the stability. While the story is unfolding, there are snippets of what a good harvest requires. It is a delicate balance of give and take, replenishing the soil with nutrients, caring for the fruit, giving it time and space to ferment. It's not really about the wine but an analogy, so very beautiful, about caring for relationships.
Here are a few gems: "Thing is, either way we cut it, we shouldn't test the people we love... Regardless of what they did or didn't do, we're the ones who feel like we failed."
"If what I thought was connecting us - honesty, friendship, a deep understanding, - was gone suddenly, then what was between us?"
"Wasn't the ultimate fidelity who you told your stories to?"
"[ someone] 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."
"People screw up, you know. You shouldn't hold it against them. You shouldn't expect everyone to know everything you're thinking about and not getting from them. It doesn't mean they don't love you. They screw up."
"He confused how she saw him with how she needs him to see her."
"You don't give up on family. Not without trying to put it back together."