Review: Maine – J. Courtney Sullivan

If you’re uncertain about what book you should pack in your beach bag this summer, search no more… “Maine” by J. Courtney Sullivan is a witty, fictional novel filled with four women that are anything but one-dimensional.

Set in a beach house in Maine, we meet the Kelleher family:

1. Alice – An eighty something (she won’t disclose her age) she’s a mother and a grandmother that has faced tragedy over the years. Her built up hostility shapes the raising of her three children Patrick, Clare and Kathleen. 10 years prior she lost her beloved husband Daniel and is left alone in their Maine home 9 months of the year. Her family divides up their summer visiting schedules so as not to run into one another.

2. Maggie – By far, Maggie is my favorite character story in this novel. Most likely, because we’re similar in age, but mostly because she seemed to have the most realistic story line of all the women. She’s desperate for her boyfriend of two years to commit to her, but he’s unreliable and has very little class. When she discovers she’s pregnant, she escapes to her Grandmother’s home for some time to clear her head.

3. Kathleen – Kathleen is Maggie’s Mother and one of Alice’s children. She’s faced many demons over the years, alcohol being one of them. She isn’t afraid to voice her anger and hostility towards her family. She is now 10 years sober and lives on a worm farm with her boyfriend.

4. Ann Marie – She is the type of women we all look at and think “how does she do it”. She is the wife of Alice’s son, Patrick. She’s raised three children, she throws herself into working on decorating doll houses, all while organizing schedules for Alice and keeping on top of social activities. After being in the family for quite sometime, she takes the lead on all things Alice and this builds up resentment throughout the women in the family.

This is just a glimpse into the Kelleher family – when all reunited in the family home in Maine tempers and bottled up feelings begin to emerge. The dynamic of women has always been a tricky thing to tap into , but J. Courtney Sullivan has the ability to create characters that have a realism embedded in each and every one of them. While reading, you’ll find yourself saying, “I’ve been there” or “I know a woman exactly like that”.

I’ve been raving about this book to colleagues and friends to pack in their bags when going on vacation this summer, but I need to clarify, it’s a much more compelling story than a “typical” beach reads. It makes you think about the role of a Mother, a daughter, a granddaughter and a daughter in law. Each character has a distinctive voice, one that holds power and strength despite their underlying fears. For me, this is why I enjoyed this novel so much, because I respected each of them for the trials and tribulations they’ve faced in the past and their ongoing journey to self discovery. I highly recommend it to each and every one of you 🙂

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