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Review: Maine

September 16, 2011

Daniel and Ann Marie Kelleher built a cottage on the beach in Maine early in their marriage.  When their children were small they filled it with family and spent their summers there.  Now that Daniel has passed away and the children are grown, Ann Marie spends the summer there and the children come for one month each.  One summer, three generations of Kelleher women end up there at the same time, each harboring her own secrets.

I was really excited when my on-line book club selected Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan for our September selection because I’ve read so many positive reviews for it, but I’m sad to say it didn’t live up to my high expectations.  That’s not to say that I hated the book, because I didn’t.  I just didn’t love it like I’d hoped to.

The book is told from the points of view of the four women:

  • Alice – The family matriarch was never satisfied with what she had.  She blamed herself for something that happened long ago and she’s never been able to get past it.
  • Anne Marie – Alice’s seemingly devoted daughter-in-law’s life isn’t as perfect as it seems.
  • Kathleen – Kathleen was her father’s darling, but can’t seem to please her mother.  Her relationship with her children is strained too.
  • Maggie – Maggie is Kathleen’s daughter and Alice’s granddaughter and she’s trying to figure out what to do about a mistake she’s made.

The Kelleher family is dysfunctional with a capital D.  They don’t communicate well at all.  I found all of the characters to be self absorbed and selfish so I really didn’t care for any of them, but I don’t have to like characters to enjoy a book.  I think my biggest problem with Maine was the fact that it seemed to be more of a character study than a story.  I kept waiting for something to happen, but nothing really did.   I thought Sullivan’s writing was solid and her characters were fascinating and multi-dimensional, but I need more of a storyline.  (Other members of my book club loved this book, so it could just be me.)  Even though this wasn’t my favorite, I’ll definitely be reading Sullivan’s work again.

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42 Comments leave one →
  1. kaye permalink
    September 16, 2011 6:08 am

    I just finished it last night and loved it. I think a lot of the enjoyment for me is I am so familiar with all the places mentioned in the book and could see the images in my mind. Growing up Catholic I could relate to that aspect of the story.

  2. September 16, 2011 6:16 am

    Shame it didn’t work for you. I love the sound of the place it is set in.

  3. September 16, 2011 6:32 am

    It’s always hard when you go into a book with high expectations. It’s great when the book matches the buzz, but when it doesn’t I am never sure whether my opinion is colored by the fact that I had such high hopes for it or whether I wouldn’t have really liked it regardless of what I thought prior to reading it.

    The fact that you would read the author again tells me alot. The only other book I know of hers is Commencement.

  4. September 16, 2011 6:54 am

    Well, for anyone else out there that is wondering, I didn’t so much like this book either. But you and I Kathy were the exception. I would call this book mildly entertaining at best.

  5. September 16, 2011 7:15 am

    Kathy, I loved the well crafted characters, even though they were not people your would aspire to be like LOL. I guess I also enjoyed the fact that I could relate to places in Maine they talked about, so it worked for me. Honest and fair review on your part.

  6. September 16, 2011 7:19 am

    I like books set in a place that really makes you feel you are there, but it sounds like the characters would drive me crazy.

  7. September 16, 2011 8:12 am

    I loved this book and the character development. I’m so sorry that you didn’t! I can see your views despite really liking it.

  8. September 16, 2011 8:21 am

    Book hype strikes again! I’ve had that happen to me with other books. I liked Maine – for the same reasons as Kaye.

  9. September 16, 2011 8:48 am

    I can see where you felt that it was more of a character study, and you didn’t feel like much was happening. I would have probably felt the same if I would have taken a few days to read it, but I was able to read it quickly. I think that helped me.

  10. September 16, 2011 8:50 am

    I don’t think my comment posted…

    I really liked Maine, but I can understand what you were feeling. It is more of a character study, and not much does happen. I read this one quickly and I think it helped me. Usually it takes me a few days to read a book, and this type of book would have me loose patience.

  11. September 16, 2011 8:53 am

    Oh, I hate that you didn’t adore it. It was one of my favorite reads of the summer…

  12. September 16, 2011 9:20 am

    I get burned out really fast on dysfunctional family stories!

  13. September 16, 2011 9:48 am

    I like a good character study but sometimes I need a good story, especially if I thought that’s what I was getting into.

    Have fun at SIBA!

  14. September 16, 2011 9:54 am

    A good plot helps certainly, but sometimes if I’m in the right mood I like a book like this as well. I still think I’ll read it, but then I lived in Maine for many years and my husband was born and raised there.

  15. September 16, 2011 10:17 am

    I read the first chapter of this one online, somewhere…and it did not grab me at all.
    I have seen several [positive reviews, but I think I will be skipping it…even if I plan to go to Maine next week. ;-

  16. September 16, 2011 10:59 am

    I have this on my wish list so I ma sad to hear it didn’t work for you. I may still give it a go someday but will look for it in the library. That way if it doesn’t work for me, I can just return it unread. Thanks for the honest review.

  17. September 16, 2011 11:00 am

    Eek, I’m with Jill – family dysfunction can be irritating for me to read about. I have thought about checking this one out on audiobook format, but I’m not so sure the whole dysfunction aspect would communicate well through audio. For now, I’ll just hold off. Thanks for the honest review!

  18. September 16, 2011 11:01 am

    Eek, I’m with Jill – family dysfunction can be irritating for me to read about. I have thought about checking this one out on audiobook format, but I’m not so sure the whole dysfunction aspect would communicate well through audio. For now, I’ll just hold off. Thanks for the honest review! [sorry for the above comment; silly enter button just jumped up out of nowhere!]

  19. Veens permalink
    September 16, 2011 11:18 am

    At some point if I do not like at least one character or care for them, the book doesn’t really work for me either. I am sad this did not work for you.

  20. September 16, 2011 11:23 am

    I had to read your thoughts on this… I need a Maine read for my WHERE Are You Reading map…. 🙂

  21. Gina Baratono permalink
    September 16, 2011 11:38 am

    I am so looking forward to reading this book – I have it on hold at the library. It sounds like it’s one of those “either you love it or hate it” kind of books, and that always fascinates me. Can’t wait to see where I fall!

  22. stilettostorytime permalink
    September 16, 2011 12:00 pm

    I have had this on my TBR list for some time…I keep meaning to pick it up. Sorry you didn’t enjoy it so much but I am glad you let us know what to expect. I really enjoy “character study” type books so I am still hoping to enjoy it.

  23. September 16, 2011 1:11 pm

    I’ve been scared to start this one because it’s just so long. Plus, multiple POVs can throw me off. Still, I’m intrigued by this one and will be cracking it open sooner or later!

  24. September 16, 2011 3:26 pm

    Sorry this one didn’t work for you. I’ve seen it around, but haven’t picked it up because of the hype, which often ruins books for me with my high expectations.

  25. September 16, 2011 3:30 pm

    I’ve been looking at this one for awhile, thanks for the “straight dope” on it.

  26. September 16, 2011 4:26 pm

    Yours is the first less-than-swoony review of this and I appreciate your comments — I don’t mind unlikeable characters but I really hate when a book’s plot is based solely on the characters not talking to each other about things. It just makes me want to shake everyone. This might be a bit too stifled and stiff for me!

  27. September 16, 2011 4:45 pm

    I have heard other reviewers say almost the same thing…and that is why I have not rushed to read it…something is just missing from it.

  28. September 16, 2011 4:59 pm

    I have this one but I have been a bit hesitant about it only because I was underwhelmed by Sullivan’s previous book, Commencement.

  29. September 16, 2011 5:22 pm

    What a shame, I do need to like characters and these women sound, well I would not like them

  30. September 16, 2011 6:10 pm

    i love books about dysfunctional family, but i don’t like books with unlikeable characters. man this one is a toughie! i don’t know if i want to read it or not.

  31. September 16, 2011 8:30 pm

    Interesting review. I have seen this book around for a bit and for some reason I haven’t been drawn to (didn’t feel I must read it). Then last week I decided I should since it’s everywhere….

    I LOVE dysfunctional so I might enjoy it more than you did but I will wait and read a few more reviews.

  32. September 16, 2011 11:57 pm

    I’ve been wondering about this one, but if it was too slow for you I will have to give it a pass. I like character driven stories, but only of there is actually a story!

  33. September 17, 2011 9:32 am

    I have to admit that I didn’t fully appreciate this novel until the “wrap up” happened. I like character-driven books, but was expecting this to rely more on plot … a matter of adjusting my expectations, I suppose.

  34. September 17, 2011 10:25 am

    One of the things that bothers me is totally unlikeable characters. I need at least one character to get involved with to really like a book. Now I’m not so sure about this one, but others did like it. So it’s a maybe.

  35. Gayle permalink
    September 17, 2011 9:19 pm

    I’m halfway thru this right now. I’m enjoying it, but I can see where you’re coming from. Definitely no plot! But I enjoy the character development.

  36. September 18, 2011 10:45 am

    Every view is a different segway so I will keep your words in mind when I do tackle this one. Dysfunctional is the wave of reads nowadays but I’m hoping there will be a an attachment to someone in the book.

  37. September 18, 2011 2:34 pm

    I’ve heard mixed reviews of this one. Some people love it and others don’t. I picked it up the other day and I’m going to give it a try and see what I think.

  38. September 18, 2011 6:35 pm

    I hate when I’m excited about a book and it doesn’t live up to my expectations. But another cover that I want to walk into … but perhaps not the story.

  39. September 19, 2011 6:11 am

    I love character studies, so I just loved this one.

  40. September 19, 2011 7:02 am

    I too like the character studies bit though I am not very sure about the dysfunctional bit.

  41. September 24, 2011 9:11 pm

    I need more story, too. I think I’m going to pass on this one.

  42. October 3, 2011 1:19 pm

    This seems like a very interesting story, sorry it didn’t live up to your expectations but glad you still liked it a bit.

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