Cannonball Read IV #53
Last year I read Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan and when I saw it on super-clearance at a closing Borders bookstore, with almost 100 copies on the shelf, I thought to myself, “Yes, I know what it’s got that many unsold copies. Because it’s TERRIBLE.” So it was with some trepidation that I checked out an ebook copy of Sullivan’s next novel: Maine.
For the Kellehrs, Maine is there summer retreat. The kids grew up going to the summer house, and as adults, they share the space one month at a time during the summer. Maggie, the youngest; Ann Marie, a Kelleher by marriage; Kathleen, the esoteric sister; and Alice, the matriarch with a mind of her own. These are the women whose lives converge the fatefull summer Maine takes place. Drama is a given. When you take a look at religion, rivalry and jealousy, marriage troubles, and relationships that are not working out, nothing is going to be easy.
Overall I liked this novel about a thousand times more than Commencement. Even though most of the women were pretty unlikeable for large parts of the book (especially Ann Marie, who I seriously wanted to ninja chop in the neck at certain times!), they were still relatively human, relatable characters. For instance, Maggie is trying to work up the nerve to reveal she’s pregnant, but it’s difficult because of troubles with her boyfriend, not to mention the fact that her mother, Kathleen, is the black sheep of the family and telling her she’s pregnant opens up a whole new set of troubles. Ann Marie has a happy but boring marriage and when a man who isn’t her husband pays her a compliment, she suddenly looks at him – and her life – very differently. Kathleen is called home to Maine for a number of reasons and must try to figure out how to deal with her family who doesn’t appreciate her quirkiness. And Alice, oh Alice. She’s an elderly woman with a mind of her own but these women just don’t want to let her do what she wants to do.
Each of these situations resonated with me as a reader. Even if I hadn’t experienced a particular situation first-hand, I could still easily feel empathy for what each woman was going through. However, the characters came across as whiny and irritating pretty often and I wanted to smack many of them. What drove me to feel this way was despite some situations where characters could change or transform – they did not. They stayed the same, flat people they’d been the entire book, which is a very big disappointment when you have characters with such potential!
Needless to say, I was disappointed by the very people in the book, and um, the ending. What a disappointment! I think it’s safe to say that I’ll probably never read another J. Courtney Sullivan book again (which, let’s be honest, could be a total lie of a statement because I feel like I say that about Danielle Steel all the time and I’ve read about seven of her books).
Overall, I say skip it.