Monday, October 10, 2011

Review: Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

As soon as I heard about J. Courtney Sullivan’s second novel, Maine, I felt certain I would enjoy it. It’s the story of three generations of women, set in the family beach house in Cape Neddick, Maine, which is very close to where my own family has a house in Maine.

I thought it would be the perfect summer book and I was not disappointed.

I bought the book from a book store in Kennebunk, during a signing on a dreary day in June that didn’t make me want to be at the beach. Sullivan read an excerpt from the book and then answered several questions and stayed for a long time signing books.

The excerpt she read involved two of the four main characters, thirty-two year old Maggie and her relentless grandmother, Alice. Sullivan is excellent at creating meaningful characters through realistic dialogue. Listening to her read, we could all feel the tension between Maggie and Alice and we could feel the disapproval in Alice’s voice as if Maggie’s actions were our own and we were the ones being questioned. 

As I began to read the book, though, I discovered that there are reasons for Alice’s behavior. Each of the four main characters, Alice, Maggie, Ann-Marie and Kathleen, appear on the page as real people with real histories and real emotions. As a reader it is nice to be able to be so immersed in a story that you continue to think about the characters even after you put the book down. (If you’re a writer you may want to read this book to learn how to create convincing characters.)

At its heart, Maine is the story of four women as they attempt to understand each other and the events in their own lives. It is set on the beach but it is far too literary to be written off as a ‘beach read.’ Sullivan is a master at combining humor and intelligence in order to create marketable, thought-provoking books. 

If you didn’t get a chance to read Maine over the summer, don’t worry, it’s not too late. This is a book that will be around for a long time.

Have you read Maine yet? What did you think?

You can read more reviews of Maine here.

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