Summer getaway with a side of Catholic guilt

9780307742216I thought pretty seriously about posting on J. Courtney Sullivan’s Maine during our families theme last month. But when we decided to talk about summer in July, it was the first book that popped into my head–for me, the quintessential summer book.

Maine is the story of the Kelleher family, told from four perspectives: thirty-two-year-old Maggie, pregnant and not too keen on telling her boyfriend the news; her distant mother, Kathleen; Ann Marie, a Kelleher-in-law, who wants everything just so; and Alice, the matriarch, who knows all and sees all and has been carrying around a painful secret for decades. Every summer since the 1940s, the family has retreated to a creaky cottage on the beach in Maine. There, they swim and they drink 5 o’clock cocktails and they blame each other for the past and they feel guilty… Just your standard Catholic family stuff, but with sunshine and sand.

This is a novel with a big, sweeping plot to get lost in, with characters you’ll get angry with and then miss after you turn the last page. It’s a smart look at family, at privilege, at what it means to be a woman in America. Bring it to the beach (or read it and pretend you’re at the beach) and enjoy.

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