Friday, August 26, 2011


by J. Courtney Sullivan, Narrated by Ann Marie Lee, Random House Audio, 17 hrs, 20 min., June 2011

Just say no to this one

This is the story of a very dysfunctional Irish-American family who just happen to have a family home in Maine. I was interested to read it after a number of bloggers reviewed and liked it. The story is told from the perspective of four women in the family – Alice the 83 year old matriarch, Anne Marie, the daughter-in-law, Kathleen the daughter, and Maggie, Kathleen’s daughter. The book is a character driven family saga that really doesn’t have much of a plot. Each character gives her view on family events. What shallow, hateful, judgmental and boring characters they are. Alice has decided to give the beloved Maine home to the local Catholic Church after her death and has concealed this fact from her family. Her daughter Kathleen, a left over hippie from the ‘60s is self centered and almost as hateful a character as her mother. Ann Marie is an emotionally stunted superficial woman who would make fertile ground for a psychiatric evaluation. Maggie, now pregnant by her latest poor choice in boyfriends is the best of the lot. Events conspire to bring these women together in the Maine house.

I found this story so depressing that I wondered how the publisher had marketed it. When I went to look I saw descriptions such as characters that are “flawed but lovable” (plenty of the former not so much on the latter); “wickedly funny” (not a single thing about this book was funny); “a great beach read” (only if you are willing to consume alcohol at the same rate as this group of alcoholic women);”abiding often irrational love for one another” (save me from this type of love). I also object to the characterization of this family as Irish American. I’ve known more than a few Irish American families and none as self centered, nasty and totally without any joy as this group.

You might ask why I continued with this story; about the only reason I can give is that I listened to it during some long car rides. The audio narration by Ann Marie Lee was really quite good and the only positive I can bring to this review. There were a number of accents that she seemed to effortlessly capture within the narrative.

Just say no to this one!

I listened to an audio copy of this novel borrowed from The Free Library of Philadelphia.


Zibilee said...

You know, this is the most honest review I have seen of this book yet. Others have said it was a little difficult to get through and that the characters were unpleasant, but you were willing to hit the nail squarely on the head and call a spade a spade. I admire that, and will be staying away from this one!

Anonymous said...

I have this one and I admit I have been skeptical only because I thought Commencement was less than spectacular. I will likely read Maine at some point but I definitely appreciate honest reviews such as yours!

Julie said...

Wow; this is the first negative review I've read on this one, but love your honesty in describing your feelings. When ALL of the characters are unlikeable, spoiled, selfish - in this genre, there's nothing to keep you wanting to read other than the urge to see if someone gets slapped!