Sunday, June 12, 2011

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

Maine, by J. Courtney Sullivan, is a sprawling novel, set in the present day but going back as far the forties. Although centered around Alice Brennan Kelleher, the 83 year old matriarch of a large Boston Irish family, the novel alternates among the perspectives of Alice, her daughter Kathleen, granddaughter Maggie, and daughter-in-law Ann Marie. Each woman's chapters focus in depth on her perceptions of this particularly dysfunctional family and how it's everybody else's fault that things are the way they are. This one drinks too much. So does that one. That one's a reformed alcoholic, and what a sanctimonious bitch she is. And so on.

That said, J. Courtney Sullivan, author most recently of Commencement, a similarly structured novel, does a really good job of it. Despite my best efforts I was sucked into the drama of the Kelleher women, siding with each in turn as her aspect of the story came round again. And when all four of the women finally came together at the familial vacation home in Maine--well over 200 pages into the novel--the novel, too, came together. Would that we had spent more time in Maine!

Maine is Lady Lit (yes, capital L capital L) at its best. Sullivan will have a bestseller with this one, and I'll look forward to each successive novel she brings us.


Madame Perry's Salon said...

Great review, Book Frog! Intriguing. I like stories with a bit of history.

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

Hmmm... interesting. I'm not sure what to think about this one. Sounds like it was a slow and confusing start?

Rebecca Glenn said...

Y'know, it wasn't that it was slow and confusing. The characters--disagreeable as they all are (at least in the eyes of each other)--are interesting, and their stories well-told. But the second they all came together you realize that that's where the real meat of the story is.

I think Sullivan is a good writer who will only get better.

Best O' Books said...

Hmm, as someone who used to live in Maine, I might be interested in this one. Thanks for good review! Rae,
Best O' Books

Mary said...

This sounds pretty good! Thanks for the review.
Mary, A Book A Day