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Maine (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – May 29, 2012
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“Ah, family. Isn’t it satisfying to leave your own briefly behind to drop in on another—and see how thoroughly they bungle it all up? This is the pleasure of Maine, J. Courtney Sullivan’s second novel, which delves into the secrets and simmering emotions of one dysfunctional family over the course of a single summer month. . . . The dialogue sizzles as the tension between the women’s love and anger toward one another tightens. . . . You don't want the novel to end.” —Lily King, The New York Times Book Review
“[A] ruthless and tender novel about the way love can sometimes redeem even the most contentious of families. Like all first-rate comic fiction, Maine uses humor to examine the truths of the heart, in New England and far beyond.” —The Washington Post Book World
“Sullivan beguiles us again. . . . Crackling-smart.” —Elle
“By the time you’re through with Maine, you’ll be craving a lobster roll and a trip to Kennebunkport.” —The Oregonian
“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.” —Chicago Tribune
“A gem. . . . Sullivan gives us three sunny, alcoholic acres of Maine coastline and three generations of Kelleher women.” —Time
“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
“A wonderful page-turner. . . . Sullivan narrates the tale with verve and precision, drawing the reader into a compelling portrait of a specific family as it changes with the values and accidents of each era.” —Providence Journal
“Nostalgic at times, up-to-the-minute at others, this meaty novel proves that Sullivan understands family.” —Newark Star-Ledger
“Gives us . . . characters we can care about, despite their sometimes too-familiar flaws.” —USA Today
“Maine’s brisk storytelling and the unfurling of its central mystery . . . sweep readers along with gratifying sink-into-your-deck-chair ease.” —Entertainment Weekly
“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
“Curl up with this wry, absorbing novel and eavesdrop on a summer’s worth of secrets, feuds, and misunderstandings.” —Parade magazine
“A wonderful page-turner.” —Providence Journal
“Maine covers a lot of multigenerational emotional ground and a lot of family history. As the story progresses, it’s intriguing to see the current dysfunction trace its way back through the generations to its roots in Catholic guilt, alcoholism and bad decisions. . . . Sullivan captures the beauty of the coast, the magic of a black-as-velvet sky lit with stars, the pleasures of a seaside lobster pound.” —Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Articulate, insightful, profound.” —The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA)
“A keeper! . . . Sullivan has done a bang-up job showing us a family full of dysfunctionals who remind us of people we may just know or be related to.” —Naples Daily News
“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
“[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.” —The New Maine Times
“Sullivan turns from friendships to family, writing with the same warmth and nuance as Commencement, but pushing her characters farther, creating an even more complex and satisfying whole.” —BookPage
“A delectable beach read as vast and sprawling in scope as the Kellehers’ three-acre family property it details. . . . In Maine, Sullivan explores with grace, depth and good humor what it means to belong to an Irish-American family.” —Irish America magazine
About the Author
J. Courtney Sullivan is the author of the New York Times best-selling novel Commencement. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, the Chicago Tribune, New York, Elle, Glamour, Allure, and Men’s Vogue, among others. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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Technically, Maine takes place over a couple months in the summer when the Kelleher family vacations together in their beach home. But through the voices of this ensemble cast of characters, we read about their journey as a family, beginning with the matriarch in her youth.
We get the story from four perspectives: Alice, daughter Kathleenn, daughter-in-law Anne Marie and Kathleen's adult daughter Maggie. All the characters are flawed, and perhaps the most deeply flawed is Alice. The past that torments her is hidden from those around her and all they see is her apparent ambivalence about motherhood. Kathryn, the black sheep of the family, discovers that a lifetime of trying to be her mother's opposite has sent nearly the same message to her daughter. Maggie is unexpectedly pregnant and wrestles with the decisions she must make for her future while trying not to echo the mistakes of the past.
This is character driven fiction- which is my favorite. Each character has their own story to tell which informs the broader story, the portrait of the Kellehers.
-Katie O'Rourke, author of Monsoon Season
Alice is the matriarch...a selfish, imperious, manipulative, judgmental, mean spirited women, whose only saving grace is that she married a lovely, kind man. Kathleen is Alice’s oldest child and Maggie’s mother. Free spirited, aging hippie and former alcoholic , more like her mother than she cares to admit,
Ann Marie is Alice’s daughter in law, married to her son Patrick. She is a good mother and wife, always striving for perfection and to do the appropriate thing...Ann Marie is the perpetual Martyr.
And finally there is Maggie, Kathleen’s daughter. Maggie is sweet, kind intelligent...a lovely person ...unfortunately she is clueless about romance and she has the worst taste in men...they all come together at the beach house...
By anyone's imagination, this was one dysfunctional family. I expect a lot of us (myself included) has had to deal with some dysfunction somewhere in their family. In this case the dysfunction should have been spelled with a capital D!!
Most of the characters were true to their parts but not very likeable. I couldn't feel sorry for any of them. They might have had their reasons for being this way which was mostly explained but they didn't even try to better themselves. They were just plain miserable people and determined to make everyone else around them miserable too.
Nevertheless, it was a good read and I kept turning the pages to find out what would happen next. Hoping that they might all live happily ever after together by the end. Fat chance! I do recommend this book and hope you'll enjoy it. I do give it 4 stars but only because It was a "heavy" read and at times brought me down.
Most recent customer reviews
I also got tired of Kathleen's bad behavior.