Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Review: Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

From the back of the book: As three generations of Kelleher women descend on the property one summer, each brings her own hopes and fears. Maggie is thirty-two and pregnant, waiting for the perfect moment to tell her imperfect boyfriend the news; Ann Marie, a Kelleher by marriage, is channeling her domestic frustration into a dollhouse obsession and an ill-advised crush; Kathleen, the black sheep, never wanted to set foot in the cottage again; and Alice, the matriarch at the center of it all, would trade every floorboard for a chance to undo the events of one night, long ago.

Have you ever been in a situation where in the midst of a conflict or disagreement, you desperately wished you could see the other person's side of the story? Have you ever been convinced that a person who is acting terribly must think that they're justified in their actions, and just wished you could understand their perspective?

In Maine, J Courtney Sullivan allows us the rare opportunity to do just that. The novel is alternately narrated by four Kelleher women, which allows us as the readers to learn a bit more about each of these four women and gives us a bit of context in the midst of family drama and allows us to see how sometimes generations of history can cloud family situations. As readers, we have the opportunity to see things from every perspective, and sit back as a benevolent observer to it all, which I really enjoyed.

That said, I'd often seen Maine marketed as a fun beach read...and while it does take place at a beach, there's not much that's truly fun about it. I don't think I found myself smiling or laughing while reading. There's very little dialogue. In fact, I'd probably describe it as sort of a sad novel because while it was an excellent character study, I finished wondering whether or not the characters had really learned anything about being kinder and gentler to each other at all. But then again, I suppose sometimes that's the way it goes in real life when it comes to family dynamics--even after countless heart-to-heart talks about hurts, hang-ups, and feelings, sometimes things still tend to stay exactly the same.

Overall, I loved the development of the characters, and the prose itself, but didn't especially love the way that the plot was resolved. Still, I think it's worth a read, though it's probably a book I'd check out of the library rather than buy.

1 comment:

  1. I began reading this book hesitantly and with low expectations. The story sounded intriguing, but I didn't know what to expect based on the other reviews I had seen. I have to say, though, that I loved this story from beginning to end. I liked that the book essentially had four narrators, all women from the same extended family, but from different generations and different immediate families, if that makes sense. We hear from each of them several times throughout. Each woman gets her own chapter when it's her turn to narrate, and key plot points are revealed or explained in bits and pieces from each woman's perspective.


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