From page one, I realized I would be reading the words of an intelligent author, who would grab my attention without the use of gimmicks.
Callie Wright presents a family drama set in Cooperstown, New York in 1994. Listening to the voices of three generations, Wright transports us through love, overbearing parents, career choices, infidelity, financial problems and a general coming-of-age story presented with superb phrasing and constructed characterizations.
When Joanie Obermeyer unexpectedly dies in her sleep, her 86 year old husband, Bob, moves in with his daughter, Anne, an attorney, her husband Hugh, principal of Seedlings pre-school, and their two teen-age children, Teddy and Julia. With three generations now under one roof and Joanie, the former caretaker and negotiator gone, Wright sets up a probable explosion of interactions.
The plot is more complex than you would believe at the start. Chapters are narrated from alternating points of view, which gives the reader a closer touch and possible allegiance to one family member. Teddy witnesses an act which would change their lives forever, Julia is caught in a love triangle, Anne is suspicious of her husband, Hugh is terrified of a scandal and Bob, well he has his own demons.
Wright provides us with a backdrop of sexual misconduct of Bob and Hugh and how this impacts their lives. Many years prior, an author wrote a book, The Sex Cure, which was their Peyton Place, and it rocked the town. History appears to be repeating itself on a more sophisticated level but the heartache echoes.
Family secrets are the core of this story, which may sound like a familiar plot. However, Wright serves it up with an intellectual foresight. Wright's family members became addictive. I could not put the book down. Her writing is generous. "Upstairs, my parents' bedroom was lit up, bright yellow, and I thought it was true that you couldn't tell much about a family from the outside." Highly recommended
This is a tale of love and loss set in bucolic Cooperstown, NY. Home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Glimmerglass Opera, Farmer's Museum and Fenimore Art Museum, it boasts amazing natural beauty. Having live and worked and Otsego County, I believe the author captured the nuances of the area and small town life. Unfortunately, the story did not do it justice. The tale focuses on the Obermeyer family, definitely big fish in a small pond. When matriarch Joanie unexpectedly dies, her philandering eighty-six year old husband Bob moves in with their daughter, Anne, a lawyer and her cheating spouse, preschool administrator Hugh. Anne and Hugh have two teenagers, Teddy and Julia. Also in play is an old tawdry best seller, The Sex Cure, which was published in the early sixties when Anne was suffering through eighth grade. Essentially the Cooperstown version of Peyton Place, it provided a fictional version of who's doing who. It also served to expose Bob as one of the most notorious doers. The book marred Bob's marriage and colored Anne's perceptions when she finds her relationship floundering. The children are not immune to the turmoil and act out in their own peculiar ways.
None of the characters resonated with me and I found them and their dilemmas tiresome. Anne is a cold fish and Hugh is a wimp. Bob and Joanie were more engaging but neither seemed to learn from their experiences. Teddy, the young jock, is nothing more than swagger while his sister is just plain weird. The ending failed to elate and one supposes the characters are condemned to continue their dreary mediocrity. Although nicely written, this book is not fun. It lacks passion and is humorless and ultimately uninteresting. It is never good when the place bests the people. Pass.
The author poses the theory that while the deadlock in the play continues, no one can win or lose. In tennis it is love-all; neither side scoring or losing. In love, as eventually in tennis, this is impossible to maintain. "Eventually one of us would stumble." As in all the best books, the message is tricky to tease out. Is the story one of resignation to failure or hope for the advancement of the plot?
Set in Coopertown, NY, home of the baseball hall of fame, sport becomes a thread of meaning. Hugh and Anne have two children. Teddie plays baseball and is immersed in the culture of the town. Julia plays tennis until her mysterious absence from tryouts. Anne has grown up here with an outwardly stable home marred by the infidelities of her father. In a delicious twist, the author entwines the true story of the novel, Sex Cure that had been published in the sixties and had exposed thinly disguised scandal of the town in its pages. Somehow, Joannie's father Bob was spared disclosure, but the book was the storyline for Joannie's secret home life.
As the book opens, Bob's wife has died in her sleep. He, the less beloved of his daughter, has been taken into her home. Ann has worked heroically as a lawyer to support her home, allow her husband the capital to open his dream school, and keep a hard won respectability in her soul. Teddy has frozen into fear over leaving the safety of his life at graduation. Julia is safe in the threesome with her two male friends, except she loves one of them in a different way. Hugh has begun the affair that starts the book away from love - all.
This is among other things a charming book. The use of the real life novel is skillfully interwoven into the plot of the characters who have grown up in various ways in its wake. While clearly the author has little patience for the immature gropings of men outside their marriages, she spares both Hugh and Bob a chance to reflect on the regret and ruin of careless moments. The interplay of generations of behavior is beautifully set off with the roamings of Ann's father, her fears for her own marriage, and the tentative search for committment of the children.
In a touching scene, Julia destroys a vicious note thinking "all stories ended-folded up or abandoned, lost or forgotten-making room for things to come." Yet in this too, the author is ambivalent and enriches her readers with the challenge of this riddle.
on July 30, 2013
I don't normally read a ton of fiction because I typically find that I can't stand or don't believe the characters. But I found it hard to put Love All down and was delighted to see which character would be at the helm of the next chapter - enjoying getting inside their minds. The other reviewers have covered the basics of the plot - a family going through growing pains - so I will talk more about my experience reading it.
It is so clear that Callie Wright is an intelligent author - she doesn't dumb it down for you or spend pages off in the clouds describing the shadows the light casts - instead, she is able to quickly and smartly bring the worlds of Cooperstown and each of the Obermeyer clan to life for you. I found it impressive that she could create such well rounded characters that you adored and disliked all in one: because they seemed like real people, not fairytale characters.
I also really enjoyed how she wove the stories together. Each chapter focused on a different character's point of view (but only Julia, the 15 year old, in first person). Not only did this bring a 360-degree perspective, it also heightened the realism of her writing. Further, it made each chapter refreshing to read - I never got bored or skimmed ahead because I was curious what the next person thought of the unfolding events.
The final experience I want to share is how tension is infused throughout the story. There are several instances where I was convinced a character was going to do something totally obvious and ham-handed. I would groan at the inevitable cliche -- and then the author would redirect the story and what I had expected to happen wouldn't. It certainly kept me on my toes in a way I enjoyed.
I agree with some reviews that it's a bit hard to follow the tennis scenes if you didn't play and don't know the rules/common plays readily. However, I did - so it didn't really bother me.
This book exists somewhere between a complex novel about relationships and a fun summer read. It's all of the enjoyment supported by a strong intellectual base. I definitely recommend.
on September 1, 2014
The description of the book seemed to offer the reader an enjoyable experience. Perhaps that was true for other readers. However, I found it challenging to find any redeeming qualities. Poor story line. Marginal characters. Just as I thought the story would pick up and provide some entertainment, the next few pages would drift away in nonsense.
I don't profess to be a book critic. I'm simply offering my opinion. Buyer, beware!
on August 4, 2013
I read a couple of reviews of this book before I downloaded it. They had been glowing talking about dealing with family lies that filtered through three generations. And it does that. The catalyst of this dysfunction comes from a "Peyton Place" novel written in the early '60s that exposes the family and the town to the secrets and lies that are the undercurrent of the town. It plays a very tjny part of the storyline and pops up at unexpected moments to lend a sense of through put to the interweaving stories within a single family. What didn't keep me going was that the story seemed to drag. I kept reading hoping it would pick up but it never did. The last couple of chapters seemed like it was wrapped up far too quickly with a bow. As if her editor said "We've got a deadline, can you finish the book finally?"
on July 14, 2013
Where would we be without relationships, and the difficulties we encounter with them? If I had the answer to that question, I'd be the wisest person alive, but I do know one thing--the literary world is so much richer because the course of love, and relationships, rarely run smoothly.
At the start of Callie Wright's wonderful new novel Love All, Joanie Cole dies in her sleep, leaving her 86-year-old husband, Bob, behind. Bob moves in with his daughter, Anne, with whom he's had a strained relationship since she was a teenager, and her family. Anne is a successful lawyer who is growing suspicious of her preschool principal husband, Hugh, after too many missed phone calls and family dinners, and too many unconvincing explanations. Hugh is starting to wonder what direction his life is taking, and whether pursuing it is worth the destruction of all he has worked for.
Meanwhile, their daughter, Julia, a smart and sensitive high school sophomore, is in the midst of an emotional upheaval of her own, as she finds herself in an unexpected love triangle with her two best friends, Sam and Carl, and can't quite figure out how to pursue what she wants without displacing the strong bond the trio has. And their son, Teddy, whose confidence on the athletic and romantic fields has always been strong, is getting nervous about his impending departure for college--and then he witnesses something that shakes him emotionally.
All of the relationship trouble in this book is mirrored against a story from the past. When Anne was growing up in the early 1960s, her hometown of Cooperstown, New York was rocked by the publication of The Sex Cure, a Peyton Place-like book that took a swipe at the foibles and infidelities of many of the town's residents at the time. The book cast a pall over Joanie and Bob's marriage, and affected Anne's relationship with her father. When a copy of the book resurfaces in moving Bob to Anne's home, it reopens old wounds and highlights the fact that secrets--particularly those of the heart--rarely remain so.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish. Callie Wright did an excellent job at developing her characters and making you feel something--sympathy, frustration, suspicion, even anger--toward them. Like so many books about relationships (and real-life relationships), Love All was as much about the things that we don't say as it was about the things that are said. The characters are not without their idiosyncrasies, but that is what made the book seem more real, and more compelling.
There's no shortage of books out there about love and the troubles it causes. But Callie Wright's Love All is definitely a book worth reading, and a worthy addition to that pantheon of books that explore the quirks of the human heart--and the mind. Excellent.
With its title that references tennis and its setting in Cooperstown, New York the small town that is home to the Baseball Hall of Fame LOVE ALL might at first appear to be a sports novel. It is actually a book concerned mostly with family and relationships. Author Callie Wright who grew up in Cooperstown uses a real life scandal that occurred in that town in 1962 as the source for the central theme. In that year an author who was new to the town wrote a scandalous Peyton Place type novel about the town's residents with the real life identities only thinned veiled. In LOVE ALL Wright imagines a Cooperstown family in 1994 who are still affected by that book's publication. The major characters in the novel are:
Bob - Eighty-six years old when LOVE ALL begins his younger wife of many years Joanie has unexpectedly died. A serial philanderer throughout his long marriage his relationship with his only child Anne has always been strained but she still invites him to move in with her family after the sudden death of her mother.
Anne - A successful hardworking attorney she is the major breadwinner for her family and was a young teenager in 1962 when the scandal about the book broke and was deeply affected by it especially in light of her own father's infidelities.
Hugh - Anne's husband and the principal and owner of a respected Preschool in Cooperstown. His comfortable life is rocked when a student falls from playground equipment and he unwisely becomes too involved with the child's mother. Hugh moved to Cooperstown when he and Anne started a family and she wanted to return to her home town.
Teddy - Anne and Hugh's eldest child, a senior in high school and a baseball star who is not quite ready to grow up and leave the security of home.
Julia - Teddy's younger sister who has two best friends both male. She and these two guys are all involved in high school tennis. Julia likes one of the boys as more than a friend and one of the boys likes her causing great teenage confusion.
LOVE ALL is decently written and the premise featuring the effects of a long ago scandal is original. The setting of a real upstate New York small town in 1994 is detailed and meticulous. The major characters are fully realized and sympathetic. Ambiguous endings seem to be very popular with authors right now and this book certainly has one that seemed too abrupt and left a slightly negative impression with me though the overall book is well rendered.
on April 10, 2015
This book took a long time to read just because it bored me. I'm an avid reader, usually reading a book within a day, 2 days max. This book bounced from character viewpoint to another character viewpoint too much without getting me to care about any of the characters. The plot of the older "tell-all" scandalous book was almost an afterthought not a driving force of the book. This is a book that will go straight into my give away pile.
Love All is a very intelligent and involving debut novel. It takes place in Cooperstown in 1994, a small town in upstate New York. The town and its people are as much of the story as are the plot and the characters. The story is told back and forth in time, and from the different vantage points of the characters.
Hugh and Anne met in Boston and married, moving to Cooperstown shortly after to be near Anne's mother, Joan. It was always Anne's hope that Joan would move in with them once her husband, Bob, died. However, Joan dies in her sleep one night and Bob moves in with Anne, Hugh and their two children, Teddy and Julia, both high school students. Hugh runs a preschool called Seedlings which he started and Anne is an attorney who works in a nearby town for 80 hour weeks. The two of them are insidiously drifting apart though the drift is not dramatic and is hard to see with their eyes. Teddy is a jock and the most popular boy at school. He plays baseball and has a girlfriend named Kim who he's fond of but not really in love with. Julia is part of a threesome with Sam and Carl. They have their own language and are thought of as weird by others. Julia has a real crush on Sam and Carl has a crush on Julia. The threesome can get sticky at times. They are best friends but each wants something more.
Bob reminisces about his life with Joan. He especially remembers when a book came out in Cooperstown in the 1960's called Sex Cures. It was about all the people in town who were having affairs, being unfaithful, and the like. Bob has not been faithful to Joan and he is afraid he will find himself in the book. He is not in the book but it is a close call. Joan knows about his escapades as he comes home late a lot and sometimes stays out all night. Somehow, however, they stay together and make a peace with each other. Anne has always wanted a marriage that is perfect, unlike her parents' marriage.
I identified most with Julia who is struggling with her feelings for Sam and still wanting to maintain her close friendship with Carl. It is hard for her to navigate this situation. She also worries a lot about her parents who are going through difficult times. Teddy is not as fleshed out a personality and is interested in selling his baseball card collection for a car. Anne is inwardly focused and not very expressive and both she and Hugh have trouble communicating with one another.
This is an interesting novel but it didn't have me totally immersed. I found the ending puzzling, considering the focus of the story. Yet, its intelligence and insight carried me to its finish line and I liked reading it. All and all, I think that the author shows a lot of promise and I look forward to her future books.