Thursday, September 5, 2013
Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
Goodreads synopsis: For the Kellehers, Maine is a place where children run in packs, showers are taken outdoors, and old Irish songs are sung around a piano. Their beachfront property, won on a barroom bet after the war, sits on three acres of sand and pine nestled between stretches of rocky coast, with one tree bearing the initials “A.H.” At the cottage, built by Kelleher hands, cocktail hour follows morning mass, nosy grandchildren snoop in drawers, and decades-old grudges simmer beneath the surface.
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.
By turns wickedly funny and achingly sad, Maine unveils the sibling rivalry, alcoholism, social climbing, and Catholic guilt at the center of one family, along with the abiding, often irrational love that keeps them coming back, every summer, to Maine and to each other.
I feel like I don't know how I feel about this book, which is weird & confusing, I know. I liked it, but at the same time there was a lot that bothered me. I rarely liked the characters. Yes, they all had flaws, and tried to redeem themselves, but most of the time, they were downright unlikeable. Alice was terrible, and I hate to say that based on what she went through, but she was a mean old lady. The only character I liked for the majority was Maggie, and even she had her moments that would make me shake my head. What bothered me about Maggie was how needy she seemed, and how young she acted, even though she was in her 30s.
I almost feel like nothing really happened in this book. Things happened, obviously, but it felt like there was a lot of family history, but not a lot going on in the present day. A bored housewife, a lonely, angry old woman, a young naive woman, a woman trying desperately to start over, and a property in Maine.
Based on the above, you'd think I hated this book, but I didn't. Each chapter was a different characters perspective, which is a format I always really like. It was enjoyable to read, and I'm a sucker for any story set on the beach. Though it had flaws, it was well-written, and I will definitely check out another J. Courtney Sullivan book.
I give it 3 out of 5 stars.