on September 5, 2011
As a young woman during World War II, Alice Kelleher had always intended to live on her own and be an artist, but after her sister Mary is killed in a fire, Alice abandons her dreams. Blaming herself for Mary's death, she decides to atone by living the life Mary aspired to: marriage, children and devotion to the Catholic church. Alice's selfishness and love of solitude make her poorly suited to motherhood, and her guilt and unhappiness with her choice lead to her alcoholism. Alice, now the widowed matriarch of the Kelleher family, is a bitter, vindictive, emotionally constipated woman who has mastered controlling her family through criticism, nagging and ownership of their summer retreat, a gorgeous three-acre oceanfront lot with house and cottage at the Maine seashore.
Alice's daughter-in-law, Ann Marie, has done her best, for the 35 years of her marriage, to earn a place in the family and Alice's affections. Deep down, Ann Marie has no great affection for the Kellehers, but she is a good Irish Catholic girl----and Ann Marie covets that summer home.
Alice's first child, Kathleen, broke away from her family after her beloved father's death, and moved to California. Kathleen has been on the wagon for over 20 years and has achieved relative serenity through a good relationship with her partner of 10 years, yoga, healthy living and various self-help mantras, not to mention keeping away from her poisonous mother and the unhealthy rivalry she has with Ann Marie. Kathleen's daughter, Maggie, is notoriously bad at choosing men and finally ends her relationship with her latest disaster shortly after learning she is pregnant.
As with most family dramas, this one introduces us to the characters and gives us each one's point of view. Then, the characters are brought together, a conflict situation arises that brings all their issues with each other to the forefront, and some kind of resolution results.
This book follows the usual pattern, but the proportions are all wrong. Fully half the book goes by before the characters are brought together. The long exposition of each character's story is only mildly interesting. Once the characters are brought together, they snipe at each other in an irritatingly passive-aggressive way for most of the remainder of the book until finally the big event occurs that escalates the conflict. Once that happens, the book just peters out, with a half-hearted and partial resolution. It almost feels as if Sullivan lost interest in the story and just went through the motions to wrap things up.
I have to take issue with the product description and the review blurbs on this product page. The book is funny? What page was that on? The characters are "flawed but lovable"? Alice is just plain hateful, Ann Marie is judgmental and superficial, Maggie is a classic victim and Kathleen acts like a rebellious teenager. All of them are self-pitying bores and I found nothing lovable about any of them. Not that a good book's characters have to be lovable, but don't tell me they are when that's so far from true.
The product description also implies that the book depicts a large extended family spending the summer at the house in Maine, with kids running around and family members gathering around the piano for a singalong. When the action finally moves to Maine, with very minor exception the only family members present are the four women. There are no scenes of a big, happy family living it up on the Maine shore in summer. I can only assume that the deceptive product description is intended to sell the book as an enjoyable summer read.
I can ascribe a few positives to the book. Sullivan does a good job of describing many of the dynamics and traditions of Boston Irish Catholic families of the 1950s and 1960s, and aspects of the southern Maine coast. (Except that nobody in Maine has garden-grown tomatoes in June.) Although there are only four key characters, there are a dozen or so other characters playing minor roles, and Sullivan manages to portray them vividly enough so that they are easy to keep straight.
I wish I could think of more positives, because I wanted very much to like this book, but I was terrifically disappointed in it and there is no way around it. I'm sure even readers who particularly enjoy dysfunctional family dramas can find a lot better books than this one. Not recommended.
on August 7, 2011
Souce: Personal Ebook
Maine chronicles the paths of three generations of woman, living with family secrets and uncertain futures. Maine, is the location of the Kelleher family beach house where many memories have been made both good and bad. Four generations later and Alice, the family matriarch doesn't understand why her family is so distant. Each chapter is dedicated to one of the characters, and we see the Kelleher family through each of their eyes. As we get to know Alice, we learn that she has many grudges against her own children; her grandchildren are seen as an extension of their parents. Alice never wanted to become a mother, never felt that she was right for the role, after the death of her sister, she was married six months later to a man she grew to love. The guilt and loss of her sister remains with her to this day, a secret she wishes to keep. She raised her children the best she could, never keeping many criticisms to herself. If you were her family member, and you gained 5 pounds'you heard about it. Divorce should not be an option, even if your husband cheated on you. Kathleen is one of her children and not Alice's favorite by any means. When Kathleen's father fell sick, he confided in Kathleen, leaving Alice bitter. Daniel passed away ten years ago, but Kathleen and Alice have never been able to repair their relationship. Kathleen is now in California, running a successful business with the money her father left her while her family mock her from afar. Maggie is Kathleen's daughter- currently single, and pregnant. Maggie reluctantly goes to Maine to clear her head and figure out where she needs to go from here, the downside is seeing her grandmother but she is sure she can manage. Ann Marie is the daughter-in-law, the do-gooder, and the perfect mother and wife. She tends to Alice's needs and remains quietly frustrated that she seems to be the only one taking care of her. As much as she is frustrated she would never imagine confronting anyone. Ann Marie has many family secrets of her own, and her perfect little family isn't as perfect as she makes them out to be. Family dysfunction at its best.
I really loved Maine, I love seeing each character's perspective. Alice seemed like a very raw character, and at times I detested her. She seemed selfish and cruel but at the same time she tries to justify her actions. You want to hate her and feel bad for her at the same time. Maggie was by far my favorite character, and I was cheering for her throughout the novel. Kathleen is a strong independent character while Ann Marie may seem like a push-over it's interesting to read her thoughts. I loved the colorful characters, from the war-torn years to the present the Kelleher family is unique and real. While the family briefly comes together, the impact is enormous. Highly recommended, certainly not just a beach read'pick this one up and you won't want to put it down.
Maine is a saga of the Kelleher family through several generations. There are four main narrators and each chapter is told from the viewpoint of one of them. The story moves from the present day to periodic flashbacks in time so as to cover important events in the history of the family.
The family's summer residence is in Maine, close to Ogunquit and Perkins Cove. The matriarch of the family, Alice, lives there and the various members of her family, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren visit during the long summer vacation. I know the area where this is set very well and the descriptions of the locality are totally authentic even down to the local restaurants visited, which helped me to identify quite strongly with this book.
The main narrators are Alice herself, Kathleen her daughter, Kathleen's daughter, Maggie and Ann Marie, Alice's daughter in law. The story is really about personal relationships which are explored in great depth and we gradually learn how the present day situation between the family members came about. Some of the relationships are quite tense, but somehow, and rather against the odds, they all generally seem to manage to stay on speaking terms with each other and with some semblance of politeness! The main characters are developed very well by the author and we really get under their skin and understand their personal motivations and aspirations and how these often contrast with the way they are perceived by other members of the clan.
This is a very well written family saga. It is interesting reading from the start, but I would say the interest increases as you progress through the book and understand more about the Kellehers. I was quite disappointed when I got to the end as I would happily have read a lot more about this fascinating family.