Saturday, July 16, 2011
Publisher Format: Knopf (2011), Hardcover, 400 pages
.....also audio - Books on Tape, 17 hours, 14 minutes
Narrator: Ann Marie Lee
Subject: Irish Catholic dysfunctional family relations
Setting: Boston, Ogunquit Maine
Source: public library audio download
This is not a novel about Maine, although the gorgeous beaches of Ogunquit form a backdrop for most of the story. It is a story of the Kelleher family, Irish Catholics who hailed from Boston and summered in Maine. The matriarch Alice, is a recovering alcoholic, tautly holding on to every piece of tradition and superstition she inherited from her family, the Church, and society in general.
The story gives us a summer when three generations-- mother, daughters (and daughter-in-law), granddaughters-- come together in bursting clashes of culture, expectations and memories of unhappiness past. This is a family that takes the words dysfunction and grudge to new heights. Alice is a grande dame who is epic in her ability to ignore everyone else around her. Since her husband died, she has returned to her alcoholic past. Daughter Kathleen, who lives (in the unholy state of sin) with her partner in California raising worms for their excrement, has vowed never to interact with the family or set foot in Maine again. She comes however in response to her daughter Maggie's cry for psychological help in the midst of a crisis with her own relationship.
The apple-polishing daughter-in-law, who fawns over Alice in hopes of inheriting the compound, is a personality guaranteed to produce finger-on-the-chalkboard chills in all who must interact with her. Each woman has a secret she is holding onto. Each woman holds a grudge that is standing in the way of growing.
It's a dazzling, bold, deeply involved novel in which the characters are well drawn, the individual stories and secrets crawl to a rather transparent (to the reader anyway) conclusion. It is summer reading at its best. As an audio, it's very well done. If had one gripe, it's that the blurb doesn't really match the story. Just ignore the jacket and read the book. I was actually able to get the audio before I was able to get the print copy from the library. It's one that is going into my permanent collection shortly.
No matter your preferred format, don't miss it!