What I Read: May

I really could not tell you how I’m filling my free time lately, as most of the days pass in a blur. But, I can tell you that I haven’t been reading.

I thought I would actually start getting through more of the books on my list, since I started going to the gym again and a good book is the only thing that gets me through a session on the elliptical machine. But, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I started reading two books at the beginning of April, and it took me until the end of May just to get through one of them.

But, at least this post is pretty timely for those who are looking for a bit of light reading for upcoming summer vacations.

maine

If you couldn’t tell by the cover J. Courtney Sullivan’s novel Maine  makes a pretty good beach read.It tells the story of the women of the Kelleher family over the course of a month at the family beach house in—you guessed it—Maine.

Alice is the deeply religious, sharp-tongued matriarch of the family, who harbors guilt over an incident from her past.  She is joined by her daughter Kathleen, a recovering alcoholic and black sheep of the family, who runs a worm farm with her hippie boyfriend in California and Kathleen’s daughter, Maggie, who breaks up with her boyfriend and discovers she is pregnant, just before the trip. Rounding out the cast is Ann Marie, Alice’s daughter-in-law, who strives to do everything for everyone and project the image of the perfect wife and mother, despite the skeletons in her family’s own closet.

For the bulk of the novel, Sullivan lets the characters tell their stories separately. The narrative of Alice’s past, growing up in New England during World War II with aspirations to be an artist, was the most interesting, in my opinion. Otherwise, Sullivan draws on all of the stereotypes that are usually associated with Irish-Catholic families and the characters seem predictable as a result. It’s only when the characters finally converge at the house during the last third or so of the book that the pacing picks up and the real sparks began to fly between the family members.

Sullivan doesn’t tie up all of the loose ends at the conclusion of the story, and I found myself wanting to know what happens to each of the characters after their month in Maine ended. Sadly, I read an interview with Sullivan, in which she said that she didn’t feel compelled to revisit the Kellehers any time soon, so I guess I’ll just have to live with the endings for each story that I imagined in my own head.

However, if you also find that you are a fan of Sullivan’s writing, she has authored a few other books. I can vouch for her first novel, Commencement, which follows the lives of four recent graduates of Smith College. The characters in this book were more richly crafted and well developed, and I felt more invested in the story throughout.

As you might recall, at the beginning of the year, I set a goal to read at least 12 books this year. At the halfway point in 2014, I’ve made it through five. So, I have a bit of work to do during the next six months!

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