Thursday, August 18, 2011

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

Author: J. Courtney Sullivan
Publisher: Knopf
Published: June 14, 2011
Hardcover: 388 pages
Source: purchased at Borders

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from In her debut novel Commencement, J. Courtney explored the relationships of four women during and after their college years. In this much-anticipated second book, she probes into four very different women connected only by family. Alice is the alcoholic, mass-going matriarch burdened by festering guilt; Maggie, her daughter, is single, pregnant, and at a crossroads. Ann Marie, related by marriage, seems obsessed by dollhouses and unattainable love and her black sheep daughter Kathleen is only searching for the nearest exit. One earlier reviewer described Maine "as a summer spritzer that's equal parts family drama, white wine, and Hail Marys." Stirred to a perfect turn.

My Thoughts: Set on the coastline of Maine at an Irish family's summer house, J. Courtney Sullivan tells the story of four women. All of these women are different but they have one thing in common: they are all family. Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of these four women. You have Alice, the matriarch of the family. Her daughter Kathleen, who is the black sheep of the family and has finally found happiness in her life by moving 3,000 miles away to California. There is Ann Marie, who has married into the family but acts more like a daughter to Alice than her own daughters. And Maggie, Kathleen's daughter who just discovered that she is pregnant and broke up with her boyfriend. All have relationship with one another and the house in Maine and each of them shares their stories through the summers that they have spent there.

I don't want to go into too much detail on the story, but it was very engrossing. A story focused on the women of a family isn't new, but Sullivan writes it in such a way that it is fresh. It isn't slow or boring or predictable. Instead, you truly understand where each woman is in her life and her relationship with the rest of the family. When reading Kathleen's chapters, it's easy to hate Alice. But then you read an Alice chapter and you understand why she does the things that she does (you may not agree with them, but you understand her actions). I also really liked how Ann Marie is a part of this family by marriage, the wife to Kathleen's brother, and how her story is told. I didn't think that I would like Ann Marie when I first started reading this book, but I appreciated her and what she did for this family that isn't actually hers. If you are looking for one more book to squeeze in this summer before it ends, I would recommend Maine. Sullivan's writing is fantastic and the story is easy to read and engaging and will leave you wanting to travel to the coastline of Maine for your next summer vacation.

1 comment:

  1. We used to visit the Maine coast when I was young, and I have fond memories of it. I'm always surprised when an author manages to put a fresh take on women/family fiction, so your review has me wanting to check this one out. Thanks!