J. Courtney Sullivan’s second novel, Maine, is a magnified slice of family dysfunction set on the beautiful shores of Maine’s coast. If you are looking for a book that screams SUMMER but is also worth the extra weight in your beach bag, Maine might be the perfect fit.
The Kelleher Family have been coming to their Maine beach house for generations but then Alice, the family matriarch makes a decision that effects all the Kellehers, past, present and future. Sullivan focuses on four family members, Alice, the wine-gulping family matriarch, Kathleen, the new-age, teetotaler daughter, Ann Marie, the suburban daughter-in-law, and Maggie, the third generation trying not to make the same mistakes as her grandmother and mother.
Alice has arrived in Maine for the summer and is awaiting the arrival of her family, partitioned out over the summer vacation. Maggie is due to arrive first but her visit is burdened by her recent break-up and a secret she can’t keep for much longer. Ann-Marie is coming up to Maine earlier than expected because the care of Alice falls unfairly on her shoulders. She is struggling to meet all her family obligations and still find a little of her own happiness. Meanwhile, Kathleen is in California, which is just about as close to Maine and her family she wants to get. Even at middle-age, Kathleen is still rebelling from everything that her mother stands for. Will Maggie’s secret change Kathleen’s mind about Maine?
Maine is a portrait of very flawed, complex women and their struggles to live a good life. Sullivan flips back in forth between characters and sometimes rewrites scenes from multiple points of views, wearing the many hats of this family. Each woman is, in turn, cruel, sad, kind, empathetic and mostly very human. Church politics, alcoholism, guilt and the peaceful Maine coast serve as backdrop to this character-driven drama. Maine’s conclusion is subtle and thought-provoking and the cherry on top of this novel.
Sullivan masterfully creates a story that will have you longing for the beach and calling your mom just to say you love her.
Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan was received for free by the Boston Book Bums