Escaping to Sonoma County

grapesProbably one of my most frequent critiques of modern-day filmmaking is the sheer lack of character development involved.

Yes, I know that movies are a visual medium and shouldn’t be compared with their literary counterparts as a result. I also realize that it’s difficult to make characters a priority when a story is told in two hours or less.

But what can I say? I want it all. When you’ve seen character development done well on the big screen, no amount of special effects splendor can compete.

So by now, you’re probably wondering, what does all this chatter about characters and movies have to do with the book I’m writing about? Well, I’m so glad you asked.

In what’s some of the best character development I’ve experienced in popular fiction in a good, long while, author Laura Dave’s fantastic novel Eight Hundred Grapes has recently been optioned by Fox 2000. I’ve also heard that Dave herself will be writing the screenplay—an exciting development that should guarantee she’ll give these well-drawn characters the love and care they deserve.

Set in the otherworldly beauty of Sonoma County, Eight Hundred Grapes kicks off with a powerhouse visual—a 30-year-old woman running out of her wedding dress fitting, unfinished hem unraveling on the dirty sidewalk, after spotting her handsome British fiancé with another woman, a popular Hollywood actress, no less, and her look-a-like daughter, from the shop window.

Unsure of exactly what to do, Georgia hightails it out of Los Angeles to the picturesque home of her youth in Sebastopol. And among those familiar, sprawling rows of grapes, Georgia winds up discovering that her fiancé isn’t the only person she knows with some major secrets. Turns out, her family, consisting of her mother, father and two brothers, has quite a few too.

Without venturing into serious spoiler territory (and really, what’s the fun in that?), Eight Hundred Grapes is one of the books that’s impossible to put down. The only reason I didn’t finish in one day instead of two is because my eyes literally wouldn’t allow me.

With tasteful flashback scenes (no overkill here, thankfully) that provide further clarity and a heroine you can’t help wanting to root for, Eight Hundred Grapes is exactly what you want to read in the summer. As a bonus, you’ll learn quite a bit of wine-making in the process.

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