Maine, by J. Courtney Sullivan, is the perfect summer read. But don’t be fooled by the cover of the book, this is not your typical light beach read. It’s about family, secrets, relationships and the complications that occur in every day life.
The story of three generations of women from one Irish-Catholic family, the Kellehers, Maine weaves together events from the past and present to illustrate how the characters came to be. We meet Alice, the matriarch; who is struggling against a profound sense of guilt over the death of her sister. Kathleen, the oldest daughter, is divorced and a recovering alcoholic who fled to California where she owns a successful worm farm with her hippy boyfriend. Her family doesn’t understand her and is embarrassed by her chosen profession. Ann Marie, the daughter-in-law, has the perfect life. She lives in a huge house, belongs to the right clubs, and her husband is very successful. But she can’t escape that fact that she was born on the wrong side of town, one of her perfect children is a mess and she is attracted to her neighbor. Maggie, the granddaughter, lives in New York City. Her boyfriend is a bit of a loser and and she’s about to have a huge change in her life.
During the course of one summer events occur which bring the four generations of women to live together. Secrets are revealed. There is so much which could be said about this book. The character of Ann Marie alone could keep me busy for days.
As someone from a dysfunctional Irish-Catholic family I found it easy to relate to the story. While my grandmother passed away when I was young, we still have tales of people who were put “in the book” and never spoken about again. What I liked about this book is that it reminds us that while our family can be highly flawed, they are family. We must accept them for who they are. And sometimes, they might just surprise us.
If you are looking for a good summer read, I’d recommend Maine.