The Unwedding

Ally Condie

Grand Central Publishing

June 4th, 2024

The Unwedding by Ally Condie is her first attempt at adult fiction after being a successful young adult novelist.  There are themes of grief, loss, family, trust, and healing. The plot is a locked mystery since the characters are “locked” into a hotel.

“.  I always come from the character initially. This is where stories start for me, having an idea of a person doing something in a situation. When writing adult books, I can write themes and issues not as relevant to younger people. But sometimes it was from a different perspective. This was not my first mystery.  I had previously written a juvenile mystery that was nominated for the Edgar Awards, titled Summerlost.”

The setting is a remote luxurious hotel in Big Sur, California.  Even though the main character, Ellery Wainwright, is surrounded by a cast of supporting characters she feels very much alone and lonely.  The characters are stuck, “locked,” at the hotel after a huge storm hits, closing off the guests from the rest of the world.  They are isolated with roads and bridges closed and no one able to rescue them for a few days. 

“Big Sur is gorgeous and beautiful. The weather does play havoc there just as in the story.  Mudslides have taken out roads, bridges, and people had to be helicopter out.  The murder I added, but people have been trapped there for several days. The hotel is based on a few hotels in Big Sur.  I have not stayed at them because they are so expensive but did eat dinner there.  There is one called Post Ranch Inn and another one Ventana Big Sur.” 

Ellery decided to be a guest at the Broken Point resort since she had the reservations.  She and her husband, Luke, were supposed to spend their twentieth wedding anniversary together until he tells her he wants a quick divorce since he already has a girlfriend. Unfortunately for her, after deciding to go swimming in the pool she discovers a dead body.  It seems also at the resort is a wedding party.  But the “un-wedding” is real since the dead body was that of the groom, dying under suspect circumstances.  After another guest dies soon after, also under mysterious circumstances, she teams up with two guests who befriend her, Ravi and Nina. They become amateur sleuths trying to find the killer before more guests drop dead.

There were many facets that went into this plot. “In 2019 after I got divorced, I went on a trip by myself. I was sad since I had not expected the divorce and did not want it. I went on a trip to center myself and get away from everything. On the trip I found I was so lonely. I was paying attention to everyone there. There was a wedding there.  I thought if there was a murder here, I would be the only person who could solve it. I am the only one paying attention to everyone else.  This is how I came up with the book idea. The rest of the week I plotted out the book and thought about a character in this situation. My experience was very different but some of the feelings between Ellery and myself are the same, particularly when the children are away. Suddenly I was missing out on a large chunk of their childhood. This feels painful. My ex-husband is not Luke.”

Readers see Ellery as relatable since she is suffering from heartbreak and a past trauma after witnessing the death of a bus accident victim. Her own life will never get the happily ever after. 

“She is, caring, anxious, an observer, and someone who connects the dots. She is very strong and has encountered a lot in her life, which comes to bear in the story.  For example, she was involved in an accident that made her who she is. She felt after it that her hard experience was behind her, and then she finds a dead body here at the hotel. But by the end of the book, she is happy to see there is joy that comes from unexpected places.  After her my favorite character is Ravi.  He is smart, sarcastic, and has a heart of gold.  He is very urbane.  He compliments her because he has some life experiences she does not have and vice versa.”

The setting was very interesting, creating a sense of foreboding.  There were twists to the plot and the main character’s emotional state will tug at readers’ heartstrings.



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About the Author

Elise Cooper

Elise writes book reviews that always include a short author interview.