Welcome to Maine

I enjoyed J. Courtney Sullivan’s Commencement, and had been reading good things about her appropriate-for-summer-reading novel, Maine.

I’d say I’m right in the target market for this book.  It’s a sprawling story of a family of women, their conflicts and commitments, light on men – both in terms of characters and character development.  The multiple generations – from matriarch Alice at 80+ to little Maisie, just 4 – gives 50-ish women plenty to relate to.

And a satisfying read it is, too.  As with Commencement, Sullivan tells the story from various perspectives, and it’s very enjoyable to see the same event through multiple points of views.   Acerbic Alice has a soft spot for young Father Donnelly and a load of guilt she’s been carrying for 60 years.  Her daughter Kathleen is in her 50s and as far away from Alice as she can get, living the crunchy granola life of a successful worm farmer with partner Arlo.  And her daughter, needy Maggie, living in the big city in a tiny apartment, turns up pregnant (not quite on purpose) and only starts to stand on her own two feet when her lout of a boyfriend dumps her.  Twice.  And lastly we have daughter-in-law Ann Marie, living in a loveless marriage with Alice’s son Patrick, channeling her perfect wife and mother habits into decorating dollhouses while mooning over a neighbor’s husband.

There’s a lot to like with Maine.  The people are interesting, well-spoken, and imperfect.  The dialogue is fun – the women are always blurting out the worst possible thing to say, but making up anyway.  And I particularly liked the way Sullivan doesn’t let anyone talk Alice out of leaving the summer homes (two houses, side-by-side, comprising $2.3 million dollars worth of beachfront real estate!) to the Catholic Church.  People generally don’t get exactly what they want (except for Father Donnelly), but it’s all okay, anyway.

Note:  Apologies to anyone who has wondered what’s up with me… it’s been a crazy, busy summer…but I’m back!  And you would not believe all the pent-up posts I have burbling around in the back of my brain.  

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