Review: Maine by Courtney Sullivan

Time: Maine

Author: Courtney Sullivan

Published: Atlantic Books Jan 2012

Synopsis: Three generations of women converge on the family beach house in this wickedly funny, emotionally resonant story of love and dysfunction from the author of the best-selling debut novel Commencement
The Kelleher family has been coming to Maine for sixty years. Their beachfront cottage,won on a barroom bet after the war, is a place where children run in packs, showers are taken outdoors, and threadbare sweaters are shared on chilly nights. It is also a place where cocktail hour follows morning mass, nosy grandchildren snoop in drawers, and ancient grudges simmer below the surface. As Maggie, Kathleen, and Anne Marie descend on Alice and the cottage, each woman brings her own baggage—a secret pregnancy, a terrible crush, and a deeply held resentment for misdeeds of the past.

Status: Read from January 18 to 20, 2012 {Courtesy Allen & Unwin Australia}

My Thoughts:

My own relationship with my mother is complicated so the tag line for this novel -<i>”What if the person you love the most hurt you more than any other? What if that person is your own mother?”</i> grabbed my attention. Using alternate points of view, Courtney Sullivan explores the difficult relationships between the female members of the Kelleher family.

What I found most difficult about this novel is that I could barely tolerate any of the protagonists, Alice, Kathleen, Anne Marie and Maggie. These are complex women whose flaws dominate their personalities. These are not women you would want to become or even befriend and while I appreciate the honest portrayal of their issues, I wanted to be able to connect to at least one of the four.
The story flits back and forth in time to reveal the events that have shaped these women. It is a fascinating character study however I generally found them increasingly distasteful people as Sullivan attempts to elicit sympathy for tragic events and poor choices. While I understand how family dysfunction becomes a generational legacy that is difficult to escape, I wanted to tell these women to grow up, to walk away and be honest with themselves.
Still, their stories are compelling if only because their truth is (hopefully) to lesser degree our own. Families are rife with conflict, drama, tragedy, long held resentments and grudges yet we never stop hoping things will change, and no matter how bad it gets, severing the ties of family is the hardest thing to do.

Maine is not a light read for a summer afternoon, though the title that may suggest otherwise. There really isn’t much of a plot to this novel and in the end, for me, I was left vaguely unsatisfied. There is surfeit of drama, angst and emotion but very little action or resolution. I think this is a novel you will either love or hate depending on your own experience of family.

Available To Purchase Online

In Australia: BoomerangBooks I Booktopia

International: Amazon I Book Depository

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. laurelrainsnow
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 05:33:45

    Yes, the characters were pretty unlikeable, but in the end, I enjoyed the journey.

    I actually loved her first novel, Commencement….



  2. mpartyka
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 08:22:54

    Great review.

    I’m beginning to think we could start a book bloggers support groups for daughter’s with tough mother relationships.

    – What if the person you love the most hurt you more than any other? What if that person is your own mother?” –

    I will spare you my story but it’s a tough one, books like this are so hard for me to read but they do let me know that families are dysfunctional. Maybe that’s why I enjoy this genre so much!



  3. VeganYANerds
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 21:01:54

    It’s difficult when you can’t relate to any of the characters in a book but I suppose in real life there will always be people that you find annoying so it does sound realistic.




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