Author: J. Courtney Sullivan
Narrator: Ann Marie Lee
Published: June 2011 Random House Audio
Length: 17 hours 15 minutes
For the Kellehers, Maine is a place where children run in packs, showers are taken outdoors, and old Irish songs are sung around a piano. At the cottage, built by Kelleher hands, cocktail hour follows morning mass, nosy grandchildren snoop in drawers, and decades-old grudges simmer beneath the surface.
As three generations of Kelleher women descend on the property one summer, each brings her own hopes and fears. Maggie is thirty-two and pregnant, waiting for the perfect moment to tell her imperfect boyfriend the news; Ann Marie, a Kelleher by marriage, is channeling her domestic frustration into a dollhouse obsession and an ill-advised crush; Kathleen, the black sheep, never wanted to set foot in the cottage again; and Alice, the matriarch at the center of it all, would trade every floorboard for a chance to undo the events of one night, long ago.
Maine unveils the sibling rivalry, alcoholism, social climbing, and Catholic guilt at the center of one family, along with the abiding, often irrational love that keeps them coming back, every summer, to Maine and to each other.
My thoughts: This is my first foray into J. Courtney Sullivan's books and I was quite happy with my first pick. This is, at it's heart, a story of the women in one family that own a summer house in Maine. It is a great family saga that hooks you in right from the beginning.
Told from alternating points of view, it is mainly Alice's story, the matriarch of the Kelleher family. She is definitely a product of her times - strong-willed and devoutly Catholic. We get a lot of flashbacks when it is her turn at telling the story. These flashbacks build a suspense on what happened to her and her sister years before and slowly explain how Alice became the woman who could be warm one moment and so bitter and mean the next.
The Kelleher family is one that harbors many secrets and, therefore, holds secret animosities toward each other. This creates giant rifts between family members who hold grudges against each other for what seems like forever. In the end, some do change into better people while others remain their same stubborn selves. Coming from a large family, I could totally appreciate all this. Big families are great, but it's definitely not always rainbows and sunshine, sometimes is just downright miserable!
J. Courtney Sullivan was able to create really likeable and unlikeable characters and sometimes the characters switched from one of the other based on their actions. This is a book that touches on a lot of topics such as sibling rivalry, faith, religion, loss, illness, tragedy, love, neglect, alcoholism, relationships, marriage, and parenting. It makes you wonder how you might deal with some of the situations these characters found themselves to in.
I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more of J. Courtney Sullivan's books. I was completely wrapped up in this story and despite it's length (just over 17 hours), I found it to be a fast moving tale.
Audio thoughts: Ann Marie Lee is a new narrator to me and I thought she did a great job with this book. She was able to give each of the four women a distinctive voice and was also able to infuse just the right amount of emotion as was needed for each situation. I look forward to listening to more of her work.
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