Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book is an intense character study that follows four women in one family. It doesn't have a great deal of action but I loved the emotional journey that I took while reading this book. I have an affinity for books that explore the emotional lives of other people. I think this book is a great example of of that type of novel. I was swept into the inner lives of the Kelleher women and enjoyed every moment of it.
I tend to enjoy books with multifaceted characters - complex, interesting and not entirely likeable women, in particular. This is not a book with nice characters who most anyone can relate to. This is a book with tragic, complex, annoying and sometimes ugly women. They all have their own issues and blind spots and there are moments when you want to shake some sense into them. But, as the novel unfolds, the reader begins to see all of the pieces and parts of these women and their issues come together in what I think was a beautiful character study.
One of the things that I loved most about this novel was how Sullivan conveyed how impossible it is for any of us to really understand anyone else. Especially within a family. We think we know each other but we're really just playing out the same patterns that were developed early on. I found these women heartbreaking in this respect - their disconnection so sad, their connections so tenuous, and their stories so compelling. Alternately narrated by the four women, the story is told through the subtle differences revealed in repeated stories. This is obviously designed to illustrate the various ways an event can be interpreted. And this is what Sullivan really excels at - showing you exactly how different people experience the same situations, how one small, seemingly insignificant thing can change relationships forever, how difficult it can be to care about someone that you perceive through a lens of the past.
As you can see, I was very taken with this novel. My only complaint is the pacing - it took awhile to get moving for me, to pull me in. I think that may be one of the things that put some readers off. I noticed that the reviews seem to be mixed in the blogosphere and on GoodReads. I think this is one of those love it/hate it books ... for me, I loved it!
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