Thursday, November 17, 2011

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

A few years ago, I vacationed in Ogunquit, Maine. I knew I just had to read Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan when I discovered that it's set around Ogunquit. I enjoyed reading about Barnacle Billy's and Cafe Amore and hiking the Marginal Way footpath.

But do you know what I enjoyed more then reading about Maine? Discovering the rich characters created by Sullivan as three generations of the Kelleher clan descend on the property. I wanted to spend more time with Alice, the matriarch who recently bequeathed the family summer home and property to her church unbeknowst to her children. And Kathleen who ran away from her family to California to start a wildly successful worm farm with her hippie partner. And Maggie who's learning how to trust and believe in herself rather than the men she dates. And Ann Marie...good old Ann Marie who wants the world to be as perfect as the miniature doll houses she builds.

I'm going to call this a leisurely read because I wanted to take my time with the book kind of like enjoying the last few lazy days of summer. Alice reminded me of Olive Kitteridge from Elizabeth Stout's novel by the same name. You don't read a lot of books that focus on women as they age into their 70's and 80's. We think we know them, but we don't know their history as much as we think we do. I was also reminded of Emily from Stewart O'Nan's Wish You Were Here. O'Nan's novel (please forgive its rather unfortunate title) is set at the family summer home in Michigan. It's filled with lush details that might drive some readers insane (where's the plot?), but this reader likes to lose herself in those details. Sullivan has a way with details, too. You want to know these things because it reveals more about the characters.

If you love character studies, read this book. I cannot wait to read Commencement, Sullivan's first novel.

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