Monday, April 21, 2014

"Maine" by J. Courtney Sullivan: a review


“Maine” by J. Courtney Sullivan is the story of the Kelleher women who gather together one summer in Maine. Each woman brings with them past family issues and current family secrets. Each chapter is told from the prospective of one of the Kelleher women: Alice, Kathleen, Maggie and Ann Marie.
            Alice is the matriarch of the Kelleher. She is an old school Irish Catholic with old prejudices and deep secrets of guilt and pain. Alice hides her guilt with alcohol instead of revealing the pain and regret that she carries with her. Her alcohol problem contributes to her inability to loving raise her children. She refuses to take reasonability for her actions which has caused pain for her children. Her husband, Daniel, was the glue that kept the family together and since his death the family seems further and further apart.
            Kathleen is Alice’s oldest daughter who is divorced and a recovering alcoholic. She has deep hatred toward her mother about family incidents. Kathleen has faced her own alcoholic demons and has done well to move on with her life. She is considered the black sheep of the family. The one who got divorced, moved in with her boyfriend and started a worm fertilizer farm in California. Despite being very successful, the family makes fun her new endeavor.
            Maggie is Kathleen’s daughter. A young woman who is writer for a magazine and is working on her first novel. She is pregnant and has yet to tell anyone. She is the typical oldest child of a divorce family. She has learned to be the peacemaker and wants to get to the bottom of every conflict despite the family’s desires to brush it under the rug. She struggles with the realization that she will be raising her child on her own and she drives into the preparation with determination and excitement.
            Ann Marie is Alice’s daughter-in-law, married to Alice’s only son and favorite child, Patrick. Ann Marie is the daughter Alice always wanted. She, too, had secrets of her own and desires that go beyond her husband and the life they now have. She has found success building dollhouses which her husband does not take seriously even when she gets a very big surprise about one of her dollhouses.
            The story begins with Alice cleaning out the beach house in Cape Neddick, Maine. She is remembering how she and her husband had acquired the beach property and built their home there. Each chapter deals with a segment of the woman’s past as a part of the family and away from the family. Slowly, each chapter reveals a bit of the secret that Alice refuses to tell anyone. Although the reader does find out Alice’s deep secret, the characters do not. I can’t reveal too much because it will give away the surprises in the book. As each secret is revealed, the bitterness and guilt of Alice will become clearer.

            I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters and their various issues felt real and don’t resolve in a nice little bow. I find myself relating the Maggie because I, too, am the oldest child in a divorced family and I took on many of the roles that Maggie does. I was the peacemaker and tried to make everyone happy so there was peace in our house. I highly recommend “Maine” by J. Courtney Sullivan. It keeps your attention without being overly dramatic and it’s true to real life problems and family issues.