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Weddings & Funerals Summary

Weddings and Funerals by Ron Bitto 

Irene and Joe Chance love the life they’ve made, raising ten children in a small house in the Chicago suburbs. Their wild home is Irene’s favorite place on earth, the kids are all healthy and strong, and Joe takes pride in being such a good provider. But when Irene dies unexpectedly and Joe falls into depression, the whole family is threatened. The three older children – David, Catherine, and Bobby– are torn between their independence and their responsibility for their younger brothers and sisters. On every page, Weddings and Funerals shows a caring family as they fight to stay together.

The novel brings the reader into the daily life of a large family. Irene is the heart and soul of the Chance family. Her love, work, sacrifice and delight in her children enable her to do the impossible: raise ten children on her husband’s modest income. The story shows what it’s like to get five little boys and two girls ready to catch the school bus on a winter morning, how she manages to stretch a food budget to feed all the kids, and how she is able to give each child individual attention, even as she keeps up with so much laundry, cooking and cleaning.

The story begins at a wedding in 1971. Even though Irene is concerned that her 19 year-old son Bobby is too young to get married, she thoroughly enjoys the reception because it’s crowded with friends, relatives and her ten children.

Bobby is in a hurry to grow up. He has decided to skip college, take a job as a carpenter and marry Charlotte, his high school sweetheart. He’s handsome and charming and wild, and Irene worries that he doesn’t understand the consequences of the choices he’s made.

David, the Irene’s oldest son, is the football coach at a small-town high school downstate. He has begun his dream career, staying close to the sport that he loves and mentoring young men. He is glad to be away from the chaos and closeness of the Chance home.

Catherine, the second oldest, is the family scholar. She has earned a scholarship to Radcliffe and is enjoying the learning and her fellow students at Harvard University. She finally has a serious boyfriend, too. She worries about her mother, who has shown signs of poor health, but she, too, is thrilled to finally have set out on a life of her own.

Their father Joe is devoted to his wife and is proud of all of his children. He works himself to exhaustion, putting in long hours as a printer, and he spends many of his weekends repairing his old car. He depends on Irene to keep him and the family going.

When Irene dies unexpectedly of ovarian cancer, everything changes. Joe falls into depression, Cathy comes home from college to help with the kids, while neither David nor Bobby want to compromise the lives they have just begun.

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