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Maine Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 14, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (June 14, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307595129
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307595126
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.6 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (544 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #525,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Guest Reviewer: Laura Dave on Maine
Laura Dave is the author of the acclaimed novels The Divorce Party, London Is the Best City in America, and The First Husband. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Glamour, Redbook, and The New York Observer. Dave graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, and was recently named as a "Fun and Fearless Phenom" of the year by Cosmopolitan. She lives in California.

Having spent my favorite childhood summers in Maine, I was so excited for J. Courtney Sullivan’s new novel, Maine. Would her story of three generations of Kelleher women who find themselves back at their summer home--all facing their own secret hardships and challenges--deliver? It certainly did.

It is the final summer in Maine for the Kelleher family, and its four strong-willed women are dreaming of bare feet, cocktails at sunset, and that magical ocean air. Alice is the matriarch, a regular fixture at morning mass, and an equally regular fixture in the wicker chair on the sun porch where she spends all afternoon drinking manhattans and smoking cigarettes. Maggie is Alice’s granddaughter, a thirty-two-year-old writer who has just realized she's pregnant, a fact she has yet to tell her off-again boyfriend. Maggie’s mother, Kathleen, is the prodigal daughter, camped out in California, wishing desperately to avoid the annual Kelleher showdown. And Ann Marie, Alice’s daughter-in-law, is the long-suffering martyr and avid dollhouse collector who is determined to keep this chaotic household in order.

Over the course of this summer, long-held secrets are revealed, embarrassing crushes bloom, and gallons of vodka are consumed. While Alice must face reminders of a devastating tragedy, Maggie has to decide what to do about Gabe and the baby, Kathleen comes face to face with the woman she most fears, and Ann Marie desperately tries to maintain the image of a perfect family.

Sullivan spins an unhurried and thoughtful tale that delves into familial love, romantic heartaches, tightly-held longings, and a lot of hope. I loved these women and felt grateful to join them as they returned to Maine--just in time to figure out where they needed to go next.

Review

"You don’t want the novel to end in July. You want to stay with the Kellehers straight through to the end of August, until the sand cools, the sailboats disappear from their moorings, and every last secret has been pried up." —Lily King, The New York Times Book Review

"I have never stayed at this cottage in Maine, or any cottage in Maine, but no matter: I now feel I know what it's like being in a family that comes to the same place summer after summer, unpacking their familiar longings, slights, shorthand conversation, and ways of being together. J. Courtney Sullivan's Maine is evocative, funny, close-quartered, and highly appealing." –Meg Wolitzer, author of The Uncoupling

“An ideal summer read. . . . Gives us . . . characters we can care about, despite their sometimes too-familiar flaws.” —USA Today
 
“Attentive to class distinctions and hierarchies, as well as historic pressures and family dynamics, Sullivan presents women who may be stubborn and difficult, but she does so with such compassion and humor that we, too, end up rooting for them. Even if Maine weren't set on a beach, it would be a perfect beach book.” —Chicago Tribune

"Sullivan’s smarts shed light on topics all families deal with, but her tasteful approach on the tough ones (particularly modern-day religious issues) shine through. The cast of quirky characters will have you laughing out loud and aching for their regrets in the same chapter, pining for more pages when it comes to an end." —MarieClaire.com

"Maine’s brisk storytelling, and the unfurling of its central mystery . . . sweep readers along with gratifying sink-into-your-deck-chair ease." —Entertainment Weekly

"Curl up with this wry, absorbing novel and eavesdrop on a summer’s worth of secrets, feuds, and misunderstandings." —Parade magazine

"Ms. Sullivan’s follow-up to her best-selling novel, Commencement . . . follows adult children who gather at their beach cottage in Maine to sip that familial cocktail of misery and love. . . . Once the women are together, the fuse is lighted. Ms. Sullivan locks the doors and waits for the explosion." —The New York Times

"[Sullivan] validates the old adage that you can pick your friends, but you are stuck with your relatives. This is a powerful, evocative story, beautifully written to reveal raw human emotions. . . . Fresh and lively. . . . This is a well-crafted story about destructive family relationships and shameful behavior, loaded with tension, secrets, booze, marital conflict, stinging arguments, and some very funny scenes." —The New Maine Times

"Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan is a powerful novel about the ties that bind families tight, no matter how dysfunctional. Sullivan has created in the Kelleher women a cast of flawed but lovable characters so real, with their shared history of guilt and heartache and secret resentments, that I’m sure I’ll be thinking about them for a long time to come." –Amy Greene, author of Bloodroot

"Everyone has dark secrets. It’s why God invented confession and booze, two balms frequently employed in Sullivan’s well-wrought sophomore effort. Alice Brennan is Irish American through and through, the daughter of a cop, a good Catholic girl so outwardly pure that she’s a candidate for the papacy. . . . As Sullivan’s tale unfolds, there are plenty of reasons that Alice might wish to avoid taking too close a look at her life: There’s tragedy and heartbreak around every corner, as there is in every life. . . . Sullivan spins a leisurely yarn that looks into why people do the things they do—particularly when it comes to drinking and churchgoing—and why the best-laid plans are always the ones the devil monkeys with the most thoroughly. The story will be particularly meaningful to Catholic women, though there are no barriers to entry for those who are not of that faith. Mature, thoughtful, even meditative at times—but also quite entertaining." –Kirkus

"At the heart of this compelling novel of three generations of women emotionally stunted by fate and willful stubbornness is the family vacation property in Cape Neddick, ME, where the Kellehers have convened for six decades. . . . In her second novel (after Commencement), Sullivan brilliantly lays out the case for the nearly futile task of these three generations of badly damaged Irish Catholic women seeking acceptance from one another." –Library Journal

"Sullivan creates deeply observed and believable [characters]. . . . Moody matriarch Alice, her uninvolved hippie daughter Kathleen, brown-nosing daughter-in-law Mary Ann, and newly-single, thirtysomething granddaughter Maggie each has a simmering-below-the surface inner-monologue that lights a spark, and Sullivan makes sure we can only anticipate an explosion. Sullivan gracefully meets the challenge of crafting a cast clearly pulled from the same DNA soup, without a clunk or hitch in the machinery." –Booklist

 

More About the Author

J. Courtney Sullivan is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels Commencement and Maine. Maine was named a Best Book of the Year by Time magazine, and a Washington Post Notable Book for 2011. Her third novel, The Engagements, has been called "her most ambitious novel yet" by Entertainment Weekly. Kirkus gave it a starred review, and praised The Engagements as "Elegant, assured, often moving and with a gentle moral lesson to boot."

Courtney's writing has also appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, New York magazine, Elle, Glamour, Allure, and the New York Observer, among many others. She is a co-editor of Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Visit Courtney at www.jcourtneysullivan.com or on Twitter at @jcourtsull

Customer Reviews

This book had too many characters!
Barbara
It's really, really good writing; a joy to read an an easy book to recommend to others.
S. Thompson
In the end, I wasn't happy i had read this book.
Verovee

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

209 of 223 people found the following review helpful By anon on May 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I wish I loved this book, but I just didn't. It wasn't awful by any means, but it certainly did not deliver what the blurbs and product description seemed to be promising.

Yes, the book is about a very dysfunctional family. True, they own a lovely cottage and summer house in Maine. But there is very little time spent on any of the fun of summer vacations spent there. Most of the book is flashbacks, telling the stories of the family members back home. None of them have much happiness to tell either. And the book tells the story only through the eyes and voices of the women (which normally can make a great book), but I can't help but feel the men in this family could have added a great deal of interest, depth, and point of view. What did Daniel really think of his wife? What about Pat?

My favorite thing about my favorite books is always the characters. When you finish a good book, you feel sad it is over because you loved the characters so much and you will miss them. In "Maine" there wasn't one character I grew to love or even like. Perhaps the author dwelled only on their struggles and depressing aspects, but you just don't feel happy to be sharing your time with them (not when you were expecting dyfunction, but with a side dose of fun, anyways).

And there is no humor, nothing funny what so ever in this book to lighten up the grim past or mood-dampening characters. There is not a single laugh out loud moment. Not even anything that made me even smirk or crack half a smile. It's as if the person who made the blurbs did not even read the book. If the blurb was better fitting to the story it might have been a better reading experience.
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214 of 229 people found the following review helpful By Ladybug TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I began reading this book hesitantly and with low expectations. The story sounded intriguing, but I didn't know what to expect based on the other reviews I had seen. I have to say, though, that I loved this story from beginning to end. I liked that the book essentially had four narrators, all women from the same extended family, but from different generations and different immediate families, if that makes sense. We hear from each of them several times throughout. Each woman gets her own chapter when it's her turn to narrate, and key plot points are revealed or explained in bits and pieces from each woman's perspective.

For me, the characters were the best part of the book. I could identify with all of them, but with one in particular. They were all so unique, so interesting and quirky, yet completely believable. The writing was simple but flowed well. Honestly, I couldn't put the book down, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for an easy but pleasantly layered read.
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164 of 187 people found the following review helpful By Maine Colonial TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As a young woman during World War II, Alice Kelleher had always intended to live on her own and be an artist, but after her sister Mary is killed in a fire, Alice abandons her dreams. Blaming herself for Mary's death, she decides to atone by living the life Mary aspired to: marriage, children and devotion to the Catholic church. Alice's selfishness and love of solitude make her poorly suited to motherhood, and her guilt and unhappiness with her choice lead to her alcoholism. Alice, now the widowed matriarch of the Kelleher family, is a bitter, vindictive, emotionally constipated woman who has mastered controlling her family through criticism, nagging and ownership of their summer retreat, a gorgeous three-acre oceanfront lot with house and cottage at the Maine seashore.

Alice's daughter-in-law, Ann Marie, has done her best, for the 35 years of her marriage, to earn a place in the family and Alice's affections. Deep down, Ann Marie has no great affection for the Kellehers, but she is a good Irish Catholic girl----and Ann Marie covets that summer home.

Alice's first child, Kathleen, broke away from her family after her beloved father's death, and moved to California. Kathleen has been on the wagon for over 20 years and has achieved relative serenity through a good relationship with her partner of 10 years, yoga, healthy living and various self-help mantras, not to mention keeping away from her poisonous mother and the unhealthy rivalry she has with Ann Marie. Kathleen's daughter, Maggie, is notoriously bad at choosing men and finally ends her relationship with her latest disaster shortly after learning she is pregnant.

As with most family dramas, this one introduces us to the characters and gives us each one's point of view.
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48 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Lauren G VINE VOICE on May 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I loved J. Courtney Sullivan's first novel, Commencement, so I was extremely excited to read her follow-up. Thankfully, I was not disappointed at all.

Much like Commencement, Maine is the story of four women, with chapters flip-flopping back and forth between them. But rather than friends, these women are related, and each harboring their own secret. The story is set as summer starts, and the four women converge upon the family summer house in Maine, one won by a lucky game of poker right after World War II. Generations have descended upon it, however this may be the last one.

Alice, the great-grandmother, still pines for the sister she lost 60 years ago in an accident. With her loving husband gone, she's decided to give the house away to her church once the summer was over. With very little maternal instincts, she believes the church has been there for her the most. Kathleen is her eldest daughter, the black sheep of the family who is strikingly like Alice. She's set her life to be different than her mother's, and has literally moved across the country to get away from the family and the pain she went through growing up. Maggie is Kathleen's daughter, a writer in New York who recently discovered she's pregnant. Now alone, she doesn't know what to do, but knows she wants to keep the child and at the same time, learn more about the family it's being born into. Ann-Marie is Alice's daughter-in-law, married to Alice's son Patrick. Ann-Marie is perfect, with a perfect house, perfect children, and perfect way with people. Yet, things aren't as wonderful as they seem, so she takes out her domestic frustration by building doll houses, creating more perfect worlds.
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