In Jennifer Close’s novel Marrying The Ketchups, the Sullivan family are a close-knit bunch: three generations of Chicagoans whose lives revolve around their namesake restaurant in Oak Park. When the family patriarch dies a few days before his beloved Cubs win the World Series and Hillary Clinton loses the 2016 presidential election, the rest of the Sullivans are thrown into an uneasy upheaval. They remain committed to the livelihood of the restaurant, but they also face challenges and choices in their personal lives that radically shape the trajectory of their lives.
If you like your contemporary/literary fiction action-packed, Marrying The Ketchups may not be the book for you. Like Close’s other novels, not that much happens. One character separates from her husband, one moves back home, a teenager moves in with her half-brother. But the detail with which Close chronicles the lives of her characters makes it very engaging. This was my blow dry book over the course of the last month or so – I would read maybe 10 pages at a time and then not pick it up for a day. This was fine with me, as I was always happy to return to it even if it wasn’t terribly propulsive or suspenseful. Close is so strong when it comes to character development and detailed, realistic depictions of relationships that you feel like you are right in the room with the Sullivans.
Some people have complained about Close’s fixation on politics, which they found unnecessary or too one-sided. This didn’t bother me at all. She expressed how I felt in 2016 and I don’t think you can write about that time period without getting into what was going on. I read or heard somewhere that she added a lot of the Trump stuff after she finished the book, so I was sort of hyperaware of whether the book felt disjointed – and to me, it didn’t.
Overall, I liked this one. Perhaps not quite as much as other Close novels, but certainly enough to recommend it.
Marrying The Ketchups was the 28th book of 2022.