Review: Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
Release Date: June 2011
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf (Random House)
Page Count: 388
Source: Read for fun, as part of summer read challenge.

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 at night. 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.

Review: This book is a contemporary novel that is told from the female perspective of 3 generations of one family who are Irish and very Catholic. Insights are given to the great grandparents as well which shows how the family evolved to where it is today. There is a male viewpoint only because there are husbands, sons, grandsons, boyfriends, etc. in Maine but their stories are woven in without being in the forefront. There is much strife and conflict between the different family members, many of which goes back years, and shows the family dynamics today are the result. The story shows how decisions made at different times in their lives have helped make them who each of them are today.

The novel itself did not progress as I anticipated and though drawn in I didn’t feel an attachment to any of them except maybe Maggie. For the most part the story takes place at their summer houses in Maine The ending left a sour taste in my mouth. I felt there should have been at least a few more chapters to tie up loose ends. This book is not a lighthearted summer beach read but has much more depth and darkness to it.

Quote: He grinned. “I take it you like the place.” ” I already have the curtains picked out.” “Good! I’m glad that’s taken care of. Now we just need a house to hang them in.”

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