Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

One of the best books I’ve read this year! Fat and engrossing and absolutely filled with dysfunctional family members and extremely flawed individuals. This book does that thing I like where you start reading from one character’s point of view, which makes you see the other characters through her point of view, but then you read the other characters’ points of view, and suddenly that first character doesn’t seem so great.

Alice is the matriarch of the family, an elderly lady who lives outside Boston and summers in Maine.  She owns a beautiful piece of property that she and her husband got 60 years ago.  The property has grown in tremendous value-worth millions now! A fact that her son is well aware of.  On the property are a cottage and a fancy new house that her son insisted on building.  Her son and daughter in law, Ann Marie, have set up a schedule where each of Alice’s three children get one month of the summer in the cottage.  These two horribly unlikable characters believe they are entitled to everything Alice has, and that the other children are awful.  Alice’s daughter Kathleen is seen as a hippie flake because she lives in California and is a recovered alcoholic (this is distasteful to the rest of the family who are all a bunch of angry drunks.)  This particular summer everything comes to a head when Alice, Ann Marie, Kathleen, and Kathleen’s daughter Maggie are all at the cottage at the same time.
The other player in this story is Alice’s faith.  She is a devout Catholic and goes to Mass daily.  The church means so much to her that she has decided to leave the Maine property to the local parish upon her death.  As you might imagine, this news does not sit well with Ann Marie.

Alice carries plenty of her own secrets, and the story is richly woven with everyone’s secrets and perceptions.   I absolutely loved this.  A fantastic second book by the author of Commencement.

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