Author: J. Courtney Sullivan
Publication Date: June 14th, 2011
Genre: Adult Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Chick Lit
When Alice Kelleher’s husband Daniel told her he had won a piece of land in a bet, she had very low expectations about his prize. She was surprised when he showed her the beautiful waterfront property in Maine that was now theirs. Alice’s three children would spend every summer at their summerhouse, which was often full of various relatives. Sixty years later, Alice has been a widow for ten years and the summerhouse is still loved by her family. Her three children and their families each have a designated month to be there, while Alice stays all summer. Alice is eighty-three, and has made a drastic decision about the fate of the summerhouse. Alice can be cruel one moment and charming the next, and has taken refuge in alcohol in the years following her husband’s death. She is completely devoted to the Catholic Church, in part due her regrets from years ago. Kathleen is Alice’s oldest daughter and Daniel’s favourite. However, her and Alice have a very poor relationship. In the ten years since Daniel’s death, Kathleen hasn’t been to Maine. A recovering alcoholic, she lives on a worm farm in California with her partner. Her daughter, Maggie, is 32 and ready to make a major commitment that her slacker boyfriend isn’t willing to make. Ann Marie married into the Kelleher family, and has the best relationship with Alice. She appears to be the perfect wife, mother and grandmother. However, she is filled with frustration when her grown children disappoint her, and distracts herself with her obsession with dollhouses and an inappropriate crush. These four very different women find themselves together in Maine one summer and will have to get past their past feuds.
I read this book almost entirely at the beach, which was probably the best way to read Maine, since it’s definitely a beach read. The book centres around a dysfunctional Irish Catholic family and their relationships and past mistakes. Of the four main characters, only Maggie was in any way likable. It was frustrating how selfish and bitter the characters could be, but it was still interesting to learn about their pasts. Sullivan did a good job of building suspense about Alice’s past, and the flashbacks throughout the novel did a good job of showing how the family got to be where they are. I was most engaged with the past plotlines, and the book succeeded at making me feel emotional about Daniel’s death at some points. There were too many loose ends as the novel concluded, and a lot of things didn’t feel resolved to me. But, overall, I liked Maine. It’s definitely a good book to read on summer holidays, ideally at the beach. There were some flaws, but I enjoyed it and found myself very interested in the Kelleher family.
“What made people and pleased them, and threatened to ultimately ruin them, was love. Not romantic love, necessarily, but the love of something, the thing that defined your life.”