Like the burger at your favorite diner, this novel is warm, gooey, full of flavor, and will leave you very satisfied.
Good to know
Here are the three things the Sullivan family knows to be true: the Chicago Cubs will always be the underdogs; historical progress is inevitable; and their grandfather, Bud, founder of JP Sullivan’s, will always make the best burgers in Oak Park. But when, over the course of three strange months, the Cubs win the World Series, Trump is elected president, and Bud drops dead, suddenly everyone in the family finds themselves doubting all they hold dear.
Take Gretchen for example, lead singer for a ‘90s cover band who has been flirting with fame for a decade but is beginning to wonder if she’s too old to be chasing a childish dream. Or Jane, Gretchen’s older sister, who is starting to suspect that her fitness-obsessed husband who hides the screen of his phone isn’t always “working late.” And then there’s Teddy, their steadfast, unfailingly good cousin, nursing heartbreak and confusion because the guy who dumped him keeps showing up for lunch at JP Sullivan’s where Teddy is the manager. How can any of them be expected to make the right decisions when the world feels sideways—and the bartender at JP Sullivan’s makes such strong cocktails?
Marrying the Ketchups
October 26, 2016
The Cubs were up 5–0 in the bottom of the fifth, but Bud Sullivan knew better than to relax. They’d been creamed the night before, completely wiped out, and he knew it could happen again. It was the Cubs. Anything could happen. And it usually did.
He was watching the game at Sullivan’s, because that was one of the perks of owning a restaurant. He sat on his lucky barstool, even though, as his wife, Rose, pointed out, it hadn’t been lucky the night before. Still, he was afraid to change things up. Superstition was a tricky business. He was surrounded by regulars, these people who he’d watched hundreds of Cubs games with. “This is our year,” they said to one another. “This is our year.” The waitstaff kept pausing in the middle of their work, holding plates in the air or glasses of water, frozen as they watched a pitch or two, cheering when it went their way, groaning when it didn’t.
Bud was trying to enjoy himself, but something was off. The mood was askew. Maybe he’d stayed up too late the night before, overexcited for the first game of the World Series. Maybe he’d had one too many beers. Maybe it was just the unfamiliar experience of watching the Cubs in October. Maybe it was the fall weather, the dread of the approaching Chicago winter. Or maybe it was the election, that awful man all over the news, snarling and stirring up the worst parts of everyone. Bud felt something bad coming, felt it in his bones, like predicting a rainstorm with an aching knee.
He’d talked to his granddaughter, Gretchen, in New York earlier that day and she’d told him she didn’t think he should worry about the election. “There’s no way,” she said. “People are smarter than that.” She had the dumb sense that comes with youth that things would always move forward, that people would continue to get better. He didn’t know how to tell her this wasn’t the case, but it didn’t matter. She had to see it for herself.
Why I love it
Author, We Are the Brennans
This book had me at the title and only got better from there. Jennifer Close’s insightful, razor-sharp writing made me laugh out loud while recognizing so many indelible truths about what it means to be a family. I loved all of these characters, and sorely wish I could be at the table for a family meal at JP Sullivan’s.
When we first meet them, several members of the Sullivan family find themselves at a crossroads in their lives, be it a failed career, a crumbling marriage, or confusing heartbreak. Throw in three impossible events—the sudden death of their grandfather, the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series, and the outcome of the 2016 presidential election—and they’re left questioning everything they thought they knew. They all retreat to the old-school Irish restaurant their grandfather opened in Chicago decades ago, where his presence still looms large. JP Sullivan’s has always been the center of their family universe, but it’s difficult for these cousins to figure out their next steps while also nursing grudges and generational conflicts in such close quarters.
Marrying the Ketchups is crisp and funny, and will have you craving the comfort of home and family and good food. I loved this novel, and it has already become a go-to recommendation for me!
Member ratings (2,243)
LOVED! This is a must read for anyone who has ever worked in the restaurant industry but it’s so much more than that. An intricate look at family: who that is, what that means and why it’s important.
Newport News, VA
As a Midwesterner this book was like a warm hug welcoming me home. It was such an interesting examination of family, grief, and change. It made you want to fight for what was right and crank 9’s jams.
I found the characters and their stories to be relatable and not overdone. The author captured the troubled feelings of so many of us after the 2016 election. I'd love to read more abou the Sullivans.
A sad yet hopeful tale, centered around generations of family and their restaurant. An ode to Chicago and the Cubs and a sharp look at politics, families, and relationships. Nuanced and well written.
This was quite nostalgic for me, as I moved to Chicago in 2016 and remember the whiplash of the Cub's win and then the election. She captured that moment well and told a lovely story about family.