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Maine: A Novel by J. Courtney Sullivan

Maine: A Novel

by J. Courtney Sullivan

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8475610,623 (3.43)40
  1. 00
    Wish You Were Here by Stewart O'Nan (aunthez)
    aunthez: Strong family dynamics and everyone puts in their two cents when the matriarch prepares to sell the family's long-time vacation home.

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Great beach read ( )
  INorris | Apr 20, 2015 |
fter reading all the glowing reviews of Maine when it first came out a couple of years ago, I finally got around to reading (listening to) it. I’m so glad I did. Sullivan shows herself to be an expert at character development. The characters are richly and carefully written. Things that happened to Alice as a girl have a major impact on her life as a mother and grandmother and we are shown clearly how she came to be the person she is now, in her 80s. Other characters are written the same way.

I liked how Sullivan showed how differently people interpret other’s actions. Someone thinks that someone else prefers to eat alone and therefore doesn’t invite them to dinner while the uninvited person wonders why she was snubbed. Sullivan is able to weave these kinds of misunderstandings in expertly, and sometimes unexpectedly.

Another thing I liked was that historical events were included and accurately described. I can’t say too much about that without giving up a major plot point.

This book was real life through and through. Although I’m usually a fan of tidy endings, I loved how in this case, some things were left hanging. Because in real life, not everything wraps up at the same time.

Maine is definitely a must read.

Note on the audio book: I found the narration pleasant and the different characters each had their own distinct voice. The only concern that I had was that the narrator used a Boston accent for Alice’s dialogue. I checked with a friend who has a print copy and Alice’s accent is not written phonetically in the book. In the audio I found it distracting because I didn’t think the narrator’s accent was that great. I also wondered why Alice had the accent but her children, who had been born and raised in Boston did not. ( )
  mcelhra | Nov 6, 2014 |
Although I really love the way Sullivan writes, she did it again---the ending leaves me with question marks---wanting more and yet a little confused with what she meant with the ending provided. The characters were beautifully spelled out---I felt as though I could picture and understand each of them with their conflicting points of view. I listened to all three of Sullivan's books, but not in order----Maine being the last of the three. I would love a sequel, as someone else has already mentioned. ( )
  nyiper | Jan 17, 2014 |
The state of Maine’s license-plate motto is “Vacationland,” and for many New Englanders, its southern coast defines the concept of summer: cottages near small beach towns, long days of family gatherings for barbecues and water play, picnics and the freshest berries and seafood. Three generations of the Kelleher family have spent their summers this way, at their property in Cape Neddick, for sixty years. However, the family dynamics have shifted since patriarch Daniel died a decade ago, and his widow Alice is making plans for the home he left her. So are her son Patrick and his wife Ann Marie. Meanwhile, her daughter Kathleen has made a new life on the West Coast and hasn’t come back to Maine since her father died, although Kathleen’s daughter Maggie finds a sense of home there.

While the central action in Maine occurs over several weeks in early summer, the backstories of these characters are explored at length, and by shifting focus with each chapter between the perspectives of Alice, Ann Marie, Kathleen, and Maggie, Sullivan strengthens her characterizations with the women’s views of one another. It’s a device that rounds them out and helps render each of them more sympathetic, and since none of them really comes across as terribly likable on her own merits, I thought it added depth, interest, and a distinct sense of realism.

READ MORE: http://www.3rsblog.com/2013/06/book-talk-maine-by-j-courtney-sullivan.html ( )
  Florinda | Jan 3, 2014 |
The backstory: After liking J. Courtney Sullivan's first novel, Commencement, I finally got around to reading her second novel, Maine.

The basics: Maine traces the story of the Kelleher family one summer at their Maine beachhouse. Four women share narration: Alice, the matriarch, whose husband Daniel, died ten years ago; Alice's daughter Kathleen, who lives with her boyfriend and runs a worm farm in California; Alice's daughter-in-law Anne Marie, who has become obsessed with dollhouses; and Kathleen's daughter Maggie, who is thirty-two, unmarried and pregnant.

My thoughts: In recent years I've realized how much I enjoy family sagas. I've always enjoyed multiple narrators, so Maine was right up my alley. I love the way Sullivan writes, and she's grew as a writer between Commencement and Maine. There's a maturity to Maine and its characters that I quite enjoyed. While Maine takes place over the span of a little over a month, the action is split equally between the present and explaining the family's history. In many cases, the four narrators had quite varied perspectives on the same events, which made the reader the most knowledgable person in the room. This technique can frustrate me to no end, but Sullivan does it well--the knowledge helped explain each character's perspectives and actions more thoroughly.

Sullivan's characters have interior monologues that kept me laughing out loud: ""What on earth would we talk about?” Arlo asked, as if most people interacted with their families for the riveting conversation." While it's expressed in humor in this passage, the theme of how, why, and when we spend time with family is a powerful theme in this novel.

Favorite passage: "The joy and spontaneity of summers past were gone now. Daniel’s death had ended them as a family. Each had pulled away from the others, and at some point without realizing it, Alice had gone from the matriarch—keeper of the wisdom and the order—to the old lady you had to look in on before the day’s fun could begin."

The verdict: Maine is not a book that made me wish I were vacationing at their Maine beach house alongside the Kelleher family, but I loved the day I spent with them. I kept changing my mind about which narrator or storyline was favorite, which is a testament to Sullivan's characters. ( )
  nomadreader | Jan 2, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
Everyone has dark secrets. It’s why God invented confession and booze, two balms frequently employed in Sullivan’s well-wrought sophomore effort.
added by Shortride | editKirkus Reviews (Apr 15, 2011)
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Alas, a mother is never afraid, of speaking angrily to any child, since love, she knows, is justified of love.  --Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh
Just do everything we didn't do and you will be perfectly safe.  --a letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, Frances
For Trish
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Alice decided to take a break from packing.
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Four women from the Kelleher family gather at the family beach home in Maine, each hoping to find a new outlook on life as three generations help one another deal with sibling rivalry, alcoholism, social climbing, and good old fashioned Catholic guilt.
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Three generations of women converge on the family beach house in this wickedly funny, emotionally resonant story of love and dysfunction.

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Average: (3.43)
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