09 August 2013

Maine, by J. Courtney Sullivan

It may have been the mood I was in last month, or the fact that I love the New England coastline. Or it could have just been the continuance of books that aren't normally something I would read ultimately becoming home runs for me, but Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan was a wonderful way to spend a quiet weekend.

Maine is a multi-view story from four women in one family, the Kellehers, and dysfunctional doesn't do their family relationship justice as a proper definition. With Alice as the 83-year-old matriarch and widow of loving Daniel, she has her own demons to contend with which extend much further than just a history of drinking. Kathleen is Alice's oldest daughter who will always be in recovery from her own battles with alcohol, but also maintains a chip on her shoulder that even her daughter, Maggie, cannot stand. Ann Marie, the dutiful wife of Kathleen's brother and Alice's son, Patrick, doesn't see a day go by that one couldn't roll their eyes and scream "martyr" at her. Rounding it all out is Maggie, Kathleen's daughter, who is going through her own self-discovery and growth, and the realization that she doesn't have to settle for the wrong man.

All of these characters had aspects I completely despised, but out of all of them, my biggest dislike was Kathleen. I didn't have much sensitivity for her since I felt she was just a nasty, selfish individual with her family and while her family is much bigger than these four women, Kathleen will always live in the past and will always define every comment, look, and action from others as a direct attack. She was exhausting to read through, even though I was massively interested in her story.

Maggie was one who meant the most to me, given her situation she painfully deals with, but I admit I was surprised how much I supported and liked Ann Marie. Yes, I feel she acted the martyr every now and again, but I also felt she was sorely misunderstood by everyone else and truly taken advantage of. Kindness always seems to be looked at as a weakness in our society.

Maine is a quiet and comprehensive study of a dysfunctional family whose pain stretches much deeper and longer than the current youthful generation. The Kellehers are nasty, biting, loving, devoted, but will stab you in the back just as fast.

I know many felt that not much happened in this story, but I beg to differ. This thorough approach to the family's pain and memories has a lot happening beneath the layers. Once you fit into that groove, it's hard to put down.

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Release Date: 5/9/2012
Pages: 528

About the Author (from her website)
J. Courtney Sullivan is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels Commencement and Maine. Maine was named a Best Book of the Year by Time magazine, and a Washington Post Notable Book for 2011. Courtney’s writing has also appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, New York magazine, Elle, Glamour, Allure, Men’s Vogue, and the New York Observer, among others. She is a contributor to the essay anthology The Secret Currency of Love and co-editor of Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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  1. I'm one of those who felt like not much happened. I liked the book but didn't love it - I needed more action.

  2. I loved this one - definitely a case of the right book at the right time for me. It was one of my favorites last year. Can't wait to read her new book!

    1. I haven't read it yet. But, upon reading JoAnn's review and now yours, I decided to read it!

  3. This is one of those books that I kept taking out of the library, but never got around to actually reading. Sounds interesting, though!

    Hope you're doing alright, btw! Been a while since I've been blogging!

  4. I'm in a zombie, vampire, serial killer mode right now so this probably wouldn't be the best pic for my last week of summer reading. Trying to get in all the fluff before classes start :p I didn't read Under the Dome with ya'll but I did download it...that counts for something, right?? ;)

  5. Greetings! I have a question about your blog! My email is Lifesabanquet1@gmail.com

  6. I read this so many books ago that the details of it are foggy, but I remember being bowled over by it until about halfway through and then felt that either the writing or the story felt rushed during the second half or so. I don't mind books where not much happens, though!

  7. Kathy and I were on the same page with this one. Great writing, and a great character study, but none of the characters pulled me in. Plus the whole time I was waiting for the big "AHA"...some event or crisis to cause these people to come together, implode, whatever. And that never happened. It still made me want to visit the Maine seaside though!

  8. I loved this one, too. My mom says it's because Ann Marie reminded me, somewhat, of my grandmother and that's probably true. I loved getting to know these ladies!

  9. I liked this a lot and am looking forward to her new book The Engagements.

    Hope you've been doing well Natalie.

  10. I am like you these days... picking up books that I would not normally read. This one was one my list. Then I took it off. Now it's back on.

  11. I really liked this book, too. Perfect summer read.

  12. I love books set on the coast. I'm not picky -- it can be either the east or west coast. I just love the whole seaside setting. This novel has been getting a lot of praise from some of my trusted bloggers, so I may have to end the summer season with a reading of it. Maybe it will help pull me out of my slump. It's the 24th of August and I have yet to read a book this month!!


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