I had read good reviews for this book and was initially quite enthralled with Flavia and her precociousness. Eventually, however, I came to feel thatI had read good reviews for this book and was initially quite enthralled with Flavia and her precociousness. Eventually, however, I came to feel that her character, no matter how smart or eccentric, was written as someone beyond her years and I couldn't reconcile her knowledge or language skills with her age. The concept was good and I love to endorse Canadian writers. Bradley intends to make a series now and I hope it does well. We will see how Flavia evolves. A good summer read....more
While the first installment of the Millenium Trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was about publisher Mikael Blomkvist, this second book gives us a more complete story about Lisbeth's challenging history.
Lisbeth Salander is such an original and intriguing character. Her unique mix of master computer talent, highly defined morals, fighting spirit and crazy boxing skills rolled into a tiny, likely Asperger's afflicted, package makes the reader love her and cheer for her. Lisbeth possesses a photographic memory and an uncanny ability to grasp mathematics. She is a formidable chess player and an enemy few people could afford to make. Overall she is one rocking heroine and, as alluded to in the story, she is the new Pippi Longstocking, although definitely for adults and sporting new breast implants!
This story follows Lisbeth as she is implicated in a triple murder. The cast of characters, some familiar and some new, have widely varied opinions about who Lisbeth Salander really is. The subject of this novel deals with sex trafficking of girls from Eastern Europe in Sweden. We meet rogue agents of both the Soviet GRU and the Swedish Sapo trying to keep their crimes well hidden, thug members of a biker gang and learn of Lisbeth's family. They all interweave in a very absorbing story that kept me up two nights in a row.
As an aside, Lisbeth lugs a math textbook around through the novel and eventually comes up with Fermat's alleged elegant solution to his Last Theorem on her own, however the solution is not described in detail for the reader!...more
"There is another 1985, somewhere in the could-have-been, where Thursday Next is a literary detective."
Great Britain, circa 1985, is a very different"There is another 1985, somewhere in the could-have-been, where Thursday Next is a literary detective."
Great Britain, circa 1985, is a very different place. The Crimean War still rages on, after 130 years; Goliath Coporation has much say over the police run state of Britain; Wales is a independent socialist state and there are often border 'skirmishes'; propellered air-ships are a slow mode of transport; werewolves and vampires are problematic; pet dodos are not unusual and time travel is very common. More importantly, literature is revered and beloved. For pennies, corner 'Will-Speak' machines will quote Shakespeare; Richard III is performed, every Friday night, with audience participation a la Rocky Horror Picture Show; children swap Henry Fielding bubble-gum cards and figuring out the mystery of who really wrote all the Shakespeare plays is an on-going quest. A group of special operations (SO-27)"LiteraTec" detectives are charged with protecting fictional works from big criminal gangs trying to take advantage of the "lucrative literary market".
I enjoyed this novel somewhat, and all of the creativity and inventiveness Fforde showed. It kept me on my toes ~ recalling history as we know it versus information written in the book. Each chapter starts with an invented quote which added another layer of humour to the story. The character names are ridiculous yet entertaining ~Jack Schitt, Victor Analogy, Millon De Floss. The notion of being able to transport into a novel has great appeal for me but the possibility of fictional characters being eliminated and great works altered is, for a book lover, a horrid concept.
I don't know that I have ever called a book a good romp, but I suppose that is what this novel is? I imagine if Monty Python and Douglas Adams had ever had a love child, it perhaps would have been Jasper Fforde.
From Publishers Weekly:
"Surreal and hilariously funny, this alternate history, the debut novel of British author Jasper Fforde, will appeal to lovers of zany genre work and lovers of classic literature alike." ...more
“Traditional without seeming stale, and romantic without being naïve” (San Francisco Chronicle), this epistolary novel, based on Mary Ann Shaffer’s pa“Traditional without seeming stale, and romantic without being naïve” (San Francisco Chronicle), this epistolary novel, based on Mary Ann Shaffer’s painstaking, lifelong research, is a homage to book-lovers and a nostalgic portrayal of an era. As her quirky, lovable characters cite the works of Shakespeare, Austen, and the Brontës, Shaffer subtly weaves those writers’ themes into her own narrative. However, it is the tragic stories of life under Nazi occupation that animate the novel and give it its urgency; furthermore, the novel explores the darker side of human nature without becoming maudlin. The Rocky Mountain News criticized the novel’s lighthearted tone and characterizations, but most critics agreed that, with its humour and optimism, Guernsey “affirms the power of books to nourish people during hard times” (Washington Post).
"The zany title of Mary Ann Shaffer's first and, sadly, last novel derives from an invented book club on the island of Guernsey in the second world war. The club is invented by the resourceful character Elizabeth McKenna, who, bumping into a German patrol after curfew with a crowd of revellers, makes the society up on the spot. In reality, the tipsy party had been consuming forbidden roast pig at Amelia Maugery's. This is less a historical novel than a bibliophilic jeu d'esprit by an ex-librarian and bookseller, posthumously published, and completed by her niece Annie Barrows.
A novel in letters about books, bibliophiles, publishers, authors and readers, it centres on an imagined post-occupation Guernsey. Juliet Ashton, the whimsical, intuitive heroine, is an up-and-coming writer. While casting about for a new subject, she hears from a Guernsey pig farmer, Adam Dawsey, who has found Juliet's name and address in a second-hand copy of Charles Lamb's essays. From this fragile contact grows a web of correspondents, who feed Juliet's obsession with wartime Guernsey and the tragicomic interwoven stories of its people.
Madeleine Bunting's The Model Occupation of 1996 revealed, to uproar, the extent of Channel Island collaboration with the deportation of 2,000 British subjects to Nazi Europe. Seen in this light, Shaffer's novel seems a version of pastoral, thronging with lovable people (or perhaps a version of piscatory, for the islanders were fishermen in a maritime world). But we remain aware that "Europe is like a hive broken open, teeming with thousands upon thousands of displaced people, all trying to get home". Exuberance is seamed with distress, and a vein of pastoral elegy centres on the lovely and exhilarating character of Elizabeth, Juliet's alter ego.
Her narrative is a weave of bright and dark, threading through the gentle humour of the islanders' stories. Elizabeth embodies a comic law of the novel: the more inventive and intuitive a person is, the more pregnant her actions will be and the greater her charm, in the deepest sense of that word. Elizabeth is a fugitive presence in the novel; she exists in the tissue of communal memory evoked by the letters.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society commemorates beautiful spirits who pass through our midst and hunker undercover through brutal times. Shaffer's Guernsey characters step from the past radiant with eccentricity and kindly humour, a comic version of the state of grace. They are innocents who have seen and suffered, without allowing evil to penetrate the rind of decency that guards their humanity. Their world resembles Shakespeare's Ephesian or Illyrian comedies; but its territory incorporates both Elysium and Hades. "Prove true, Imagination, oh prove true," pleads Viola in Twelfth Night - and, sure enough, a brother is delivered from the sea.
Guernsey's dead will not return. Shaffer's writing, with its delicately offbeat, self-deprecating stylishness, is exquisitely turned, bearing a clear debt to Jane Austen. She shows, in addition, an uncanny ability to evoke period, miming its manners and mannerisms - not only in the reminders of blitzed London but also in recreating a culture that reveres books.
This is at the heart of the novel's golden comedy. The rarity of books in 1946 reminds us of an age we have lost, of stint and thrift combined with greater amplitude of time. In such a culture, hand-written letters are precious personal gifts. Each book, meeting and letter has value, commands affectionate attention, and never comes cheap."...more
**spoiler alert** Oh my word...this book was too much (in a bad way). Too many metaphors, too many similes, too many examples spelling things out for**spoiler alert** Oh my word...this book was too much (in a bad way). Too many metaphors, too many similes, too many examples spelling things out for us. As a character, the narrator was detached. Therefore I was detached. I really didn't care about him. I found Marianne much more interesting and thought the secondary characters were done well.There are a couple of characters and sections I feel could make for interesting books in their own right.I found the 'back-in-time' sequences dealing with examples of eternal love to be repetitive. The fact the author felt the need to explain his book - rather, his main character's 'redemption' - to us on pages 370 & 371 (the hardcover edition I read) irked me; did he think the readers were not thoughtful enough to know that for themselves? I didn't feel the book or Davidson's writing style to be spectacular - as has been hyped for so long. Perhaps the hype is/was the problem? Overall, I feel Davidson had an interesting idea and then tried to cram everything he learned into the book. I know I am in the minority when I say I did not like this book....more
From Publishers Weekly: "Edwards gives an assured but schematic debut novel hinges on the birth of fraternal twins, a healthy boy and a girl with DownFrom Publishers Weekly: "Edwards gives an assured but schematic debut novel hinges on the birth of fraternal twins, a healthy boy and a girl with Down syndrome, resulting in the father's disavowal of his newborn daughter. A snowstorm immobilizes Lexington, Ky., in 1964, and when young Norah Henry goes into labour, her husband, orthopaedic surgeon Dr. David Henry, must deliver their babies himself, aided only by a nurse. Seeing his daughter's handicap, he instructs the nurse, Caroline Gill, to take her to a home and later tells Norah, who was drugged during labour, that their son Paul's twin died at birth. Instead of institutionalizing Phoebe, Caroline absconds with her to Pittsburgh. David's deception becomes the defining moment of the main characters' lives, and Phoebe's absence corrodes her birth family's core over the course of the next 25 years. David's undetected lie warps his marriage; he grapples with guilt; Norah mourns her lost child; and Paul not only deals with his parents' icy relationship but with his own yearnings for his sister as well. Though the impact of Phoebe's loss makes sense, Edwards shows redundant handling of the trope robs it of credibility. This neatly structured story is a little too moist with compassion."...more
Well, what can I say about a book that has so much written about it already? I have nothing new or insightful to add about the book - it is gothic, daWell, what can I say about a book that has so much written about it already? I have nothing new or insightful to add about the book - it is gothic, dark, twisty and very good....more
To begin reading Galore by Michael Crummey is to be invited into an epic novel of historical fiction that will compel you forward as you are overtaken by beautiful storytelling and fantastical events. For those who love to escape into their reading, this book will serve you well as it offers a true, unputdownable distraction from the reality of our more regular and everyday lives.
Galore was written over four years and is the third novel Crummey has set in Newfoundland. Born, raised and still living in the Canadian province that inspires his fiction, Crummey tackles some big themes in Galore. When asked about his newest novel, he responds by saying that "So much of Newfoundland's story seems tied up in…the unlikely resurrection after all hope has been lost. Loss and heartbreak and grief. Yes. And otherworldly resilience in the face of it. Rebirth. Wonder."
Sprawling wondrously over two hundred years, coming to an end during World War I, Galore tells the story of two connected families, the Sellers and the Devines, and two connected fishing communities in remote Newfoundland, Paradise Deep and The Gut (both fictional). Many events are addressed over the length of the story - love and loss, family, religion; folklore; times of feast and famine; births; deaths; traditions; the development of the fishing industry; unionization; a ghost; curses; a witch; medicine and the Great War. Phew! Given all this subject matter, Crummey successfully achieves the almost unfathomable in packaging this sweeping story of Newfoundland within just 350 pages.
Galore opens with two births in the outport village of Paradise Deep - one a grown man who has been cut from the belly of a beached whale and the other a new baby to a village family. Over the course of a few days, both appear to be closer to exiting the world than staying in it. The man, pale, bleached ("almost-albino") and stinking of rotted fish, is mute, naked and initially thought to be dead. However, showing weak signs of life, he is tended by the town's "witch", the Widow Devine, matriarch of the Devine family and grandmother of the new baby, as well as a gifted healer and midwife. The baby is also weak and struggling to live - coffins are built for both man and infant. The stranger, unconscious and uncommunicative, gives the town's people much to consider: Who is he? How did he get in the belly of the whale? The name debate, very early on in the book, is an example of the humor to be found in Galore:
"He come right out of the whale's belly", James Woundy announced, as if he had been the only one person present to see it. "As God is my witness so he did. Just like that one Judas in the Bible."
"Not Judas, you arse."
James turned to look at Jabez Trim. "Well, who was it then, Mr. Trim?"
"Jonah, it was. Jonah was swallowed by the whale."
"You sure it weren't Judas, Mr. Trim?"
"Judas was the disciple who betrayed Our Lord for thirty pieces of silver."
"And he was thrown overboard," James said. "That's how I minds it. Thrown into the ocean for betraying the Lord. With a millstone about his neck. And God had him eat up by a whale. To teach him a hard lesson."
"Jonah was fleeing the Lord God Almighty," Jabez insisted. "God chose him to be a prophet and Jonah had rather be a sailor and he ran from God aboard of a ship. And he was thrown into the sea by his mates to save themselves from a savage storm the Lord set upon them. And God sent a whale to swallow Jonah."
That's a fine story, Mr. Trim," James said. "But it don't sound quite right to my memory."
"Goddamn it, James Woundy. Do I have to bring out the Book and show you?"
"Now, sir, as I cannot read, I don't see how that would go far to clearing the matter up."
"Well you'll just have to take my word for it then," Jabez said.
Judah is the name reached in compromise. The infant is named Michael. And so the stranger and child are baptised, Paradise Deep-style, passed among the branches of Kerrivan's Tree (a scraggly apple tree that produces sour fruit) in an effort to save their lives in a manner more in keeping with the folkloric traditions of the community than the ritualistic manner of organized religion. The tree, carried as a sapling to the village from Ireland many years before, is thought to offer strength and protection to those woven through its branches. Judah and Michael, both improve after this ceremony and are born-again into the community.
Crummey has long thought of "the outports [of Newfoundland] as Old Testament landscapes, places where it's easier to believe in a vengeful and jealous deity than in the gentle Lamb of God. So the Old Testament is a big character in the novel." Indeed, along with the punishing landscape and unforgiving weather, many of the characters' names, Mary Tryphena, Lazarus, Absalom, Eli, Abel, Esther and Levi (to name a few), are pulled directly from the Bible; each one of them eccentric, layered and fully developed. Many are uneducated, rough and carrying generation-long grudges. These people can be almost as harsh and imposing as the setting in which they live.
While "galore" denotes plenty, abundance and wealth, this novel traces not only the good times, but the more frequent hard times as well. Newfoundland, perhaps more so than any other province in Canada, is unique. Cast out in the Atlantic ocean, this isolated island was born through the strength and resolve of settlers from Ireland and Britain and the native "bushborns". Existences were carved out on the "Rock" (a nickname for Newfoundland) through fishing, trapping, whaling and sealing - some years more plentiful than others. The winter seasons were long and bleak; people starving to death during the seemingly endless frozen months. Yet, amongst all of these challenges to survival are times of plenty and times of hope. The characters in Galore pull together, individuals and families working as one to ensure not only the survival of each other, but the continuity of their community for the generations who will follow.
04 April 11
Second reading of this novel and it was as strong and beautiful as the first time I read it in late 2009. I am working on a review of this book for BookBrowse so, unfortunately, can't go into great detail here just yet.
I will say this novel is epic, magical, perfect.
12 December 09
Following below, is, I think, the best review of this novel I have read. I posted it upon completing my first read of Crummey's story, sixteen months ago.
Galore opens with a group of people in the fictional Newfoundland outport of Paradise Deep, slaughtering a whale that has inexplicably beached itself. Young Mary Tryphena watches as the body of a man, pale and stinking, is cut from the whale's belly. Her grandmother, an old crone named Devine's Widow, defies the town oligarch, King-me Sellers, and has the man carried up the hill to prepare him for a proper burial.
The man, it turns out, is in fact alive, though he cannot speak a word. In the spirit of compromise and illiteracy, he is given the name of Judah. He never does utter a word, and he never loses his stench, but his presence ignites a spark in Paradise Deep that sustains the story for multiple generations.
Crummey's prose is flawless. He has a way with the colloquial that escapes many writers, an ability to make the idiosyncrasies of local speech an asset in creating an image in the reader's mind.
“They'd scaled the whale's back to drive a stake with a maul, hoping to strike some vital organ, and managed to set it bleeding steadily. They saw nothing for it then but to wait for God to do His work and they sat with their splitting knives and fish prongs, with their dip nets and axes and saws and barrels. The wind was razor sharp and Mary Tryphena lost all feeling in her hands and feet and her little arse went dunch on the sand while the whale expired in imperceptible increments. Jabez Trim waded out at intervals to prod at the fat saucer of an eye and report back on God's progress.”
I have, for example, never heard the word “dunch” in my life. But still I know what it means, and have even from time to time felt it in my own rear side. There are writers who can send you scowling for a dictionary, and writers who throw you laughing into language. I went to the dictionary only because of this review, and “dunch” wasn't there. It doesn't need to be.
I believe that books, or at least good books, have a voice. I'm not talking about narrators or characters or that sort of thing; what I mean is that the book itself feels alive and it has a personality and sound all of its own, independent of whatever other stylistic devices are at play within its pages. In this respect, Galore succeeds brilliantly. It's a book that will live in the minds of readers long after they've turned the final page.
Where Crummey's first two novels took one or more characters and placed them in a historical context that allowed readers to see both the characters and Newfoundland, which is how most historical novels work, Galore achieves a far more difficult effect. The characters, plot and setting have been fused, in that this book isn't so much about the people and the events and places that affect them as it is the folkloric sum of Newfoundland, and the characters, as individual and real and compelling as they are, are, for all their strangeness, archetypes, an odd and wonderful mash of biblical and pagan touchstones. It's an incredibly difficult task to make characters such as these work as human beings as well as elements of folklore, and Crummey does it with as much skill and grace as Gabriel Garcia Márquez does in One Hundred Years of Solitude , a novel very much the forebear of this book.
We eventually follow the descendents of young Mary Tryphena through the years, watch as Paradise Deep flourishes and flounders, see the ripples of events that happened years before, see history repeat and morph and repeat again. In Galore , the ghosts are real and the real people live as ghosts. Things that shouldn't happen do. You could, I suppose, call the book a sort of magic realism, though I'm not sure if that doesn't confine it in a way I'm not willing to do. There's something about the term “magic realism” that suggests that magic isn't real, and besides that, the magic that takes place in Paradise Deep isn't really magic, it's simply a part of the known world, like gravity or rainfall.
We have, in Canada, a handful of writers who are able, in the minds of readers, to define a place. While I've never lived in, or in some cases been to, the Miramichi, Comox Valley, Cape Breton or Montreal, I've read David Adams Richards, Jack Hodgins, Alistair MacLeod and Mordecai Richler. As a result, those places live as vividly in my imagination as many places in which I've spent more time and about which I know more factually. Perhaps even more vividly.
Michael Crummey is without a doubt one of Canada's finest writers. I won't thrust the mantle of the voice of Newfoundland on him, as he may well in the future write about other parts of the world, and I will be happy, as a reader, to follow him there. Throw a rock on the Rock, burning or not, and you'll hit a good writer (please don't actually throw rocks at writers, or anyone). But the Newfoundland that exists in my imagination – the one that may not be real and if it ever was real likely doesn't exist today – smells and tastes and sounds like Galore .
Steven Galloway is the author of "The Cellist of Sarajevo"....more
I just finished reading your new book, Last Night in Twisted River. I enjoy your writing style very much and your layers of storytelliDear Mr. Irving;
I just finished reading your new book, Last Night in Twisted River. I enjoy your writing style very much and your layers of storytelling have always been amazing to me. I do have to ask you something difficult, though.
I have had this hope, each time I hear of a new John Irving book being released, that THIS time I am going to be totally surprised by how and where you have taken us as readers. My only wish is for you to really break out of you Exeter/wrestling/boys&mothers box. You do this group of themes so well, and have shown that time and again. In fact, in your new novel you rail against authors who do the same thing by "writing what they know". You can understand my confusion.
In Last Night in Twisted River, the (very)thinly veiled references to almost every book you have ever published, peppered throughout this novel, is a bit disconcerting. Along with a few badly cloaked allusions to some of your personal, real life events I am left worried your creative well is getting depleted. We readers know you KNOW this stuff ~ your comfort zone, your heart.
Please Mr. Irving, something different next time? I know you have the talent to pull off the absolutely unexpected and render the reading world gob-smacked! I still heart you and still give the novel 4 stars!
Okay, so before the book has to go back to the library, I pulled out a couple of quotes that stood out for me.
A)"Ketchum meant that someone should have killed Ralph Nader. (Gore would have beaten Bush in Florida if Nader hadn't played the spoiler role.) Ketchum believed that Ralph Nader should be bound and gagged - "preferably, in a child's defective car seat" - and sunk in the Androscoggin."
Okay, this just made me laugh out loud, picturing it.
B)"Danny Angel's fiction had been ransacked for every conceivable autobiographical scrap; his novels had been dissected and overanalyzed for whatever could be construed as the virtual memoirs hidden inside them. But what did Danny expect? In the media, real life was more important that fiction; those elements of a novel that were, at least, based on personal experience were of more interest to the general public that those pieces of the novel-writing process that were "merely" made up."
C) "That kind of question drove Danny Angel crazy, but he expected too much from journalists; most of them lacked the imagination to believe that anything credible in a novel had been "wholly imagined." And those former journalists who later turned to writing fiction subscribed to that tiresome Hemingway dictum of writing about what you know. What bullshit was this? Novels should be about the people you know? How many boring but deadeningly realistic novels ca be attributed to this lame and utterly uninspired advice?"
D) "Dysfunctional families; damaging sexual experiences; various losses of innocence, all leading to regret. These stories were small, domestic tragedies - none of them condemnations of society or government. In Danny Angel's novels the villain - if there was one - was more often human nature..."
Funny how my tongue-in-cheek letter, above, can be addressed with passages from the novel. These quotations were all taken from the same time in the book, covering pages 372 through 377.
I loved the first two-thirds of the novel. I found Cleave's ability to give voice to a young, female, Nigerian character
I rate this book as 3.5 stars.
I loved the first two-thirds of the novel. I found Cleave's ability to give voice to a young, female, Nigerian character quite remarkable. I felt the idea for the story to be very original. I was so eager to follow wherever the tale was taking me. Towards the end, (I don't want to give anything away for those who haven't read it) the author uses a plot device that I just cannot reconcile. I know why he did it, but it does not fit with what I feel the character would have done. The story certainly makes you think about the atrocities endured by so many people in some developing nations.
There was/is a lot of hype for this book and I am always wary of books that are elevated in status. The description on the book jacket is a bit irritating ("We don't want to tell you too much about this book. It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it..."), although I'm sure it has been marketing gold! If you can get past these two elements, I do think the book is worth reading and that Cleave has created a memorable character in ....more
The first time I read this book I really loathed it (only 1 star). The writing was terrific, but the plot and characters wereI give this book 2 stars.
The first time I read this book I really loathed it (only 1 star). The writing was terrific, but the plot and characters were lacking for me. I became so distracted by my loathing for the father that I just couldn't get past it. We'll see how it goes second time around when I re-read it for the Challenge.
Well, second time was better than the first. I still loathed the character of the father (Nathan), but was able to set those feelings aside. The twins, Adah and Leah were most appealing to me ~ their stories and their voices. Orleanna, the mother, was alright but didn't impact me the way the twins did. The youngest daughter, Ruth May, was written well and I enjoyed how it was Ruth May who was the first to be accepted by the children of the village. The oldest daughter, Rachel, was a pain-in-the-butt and I don't think she really added any depth to the story, being so shallow. I do get the point of her story arc, but she was completely irritating.
The history of the Congo is a complicated story to weave into a fictional tale. I think Kingsolver did a reasonable job, but overall I wasn't "WOWED" with this novel. ...more
This is Lansens' third novel. Her last book, The Girls, is one of my favourite and Rush Home Road was a wonderful novel which I loved too. Her new worThis is Lansens' third novel. Her last book, The Girls, is one of my favourite and Rush Home Road was a wonderful novel which I loved too. Her new work,The Wife's Tale A Novel, while well written with and interesting main character in Mary Gooch, was not as strong as her previous two works. In this story the author references her other two novels. I found this a bit disconcerting. She is not writing a series although each story does take place in the same county she has invented in south-western Ontario, Canada. The insertion of these points of reference seemed to affect the flow of the story. I was cheering for Mary and I did wonder how the story would unfold. I felt Jimmy Gooch could have been more fully developed. I recognize the story was about Mary, but a bit more about Jimmy could have added to the story, giving it a bit more depth. I felt the ending to be a bit weak - slightly unfinished or hasty. Over all I would give this three and a half stars. I still believe Lansens is a gifted writer and story-teller but, for me,The Wife's Tale A Novel falls a bit short of her previous ....more
Richard Russo gives us the story of a marriage, and of all the other ties that bind, from parents and in-laws to children and the promises of youth.
JaRichard Russo gives us the story of a marriage, and of all the other ties that bind, from parents and in-laws to children and the promises of youth.
Jack Griffin has been tooling around for nearly a year with his father’s ashes in the trunk, but his mother is very much alive and not shy about calling on his cell phone. She does so as he drives down to Cape Cod, where he and his wife, Joy, will celebrate the marriage of their daughter Laura’s best friend. For Griffin this is akin to driving into the past, since he took his childhood summer vacations here, his parents’ respite from the hated Midwest. And the Cape is where he and Joy honeymooned, during the course of which they drafted the Great Truro Accord, a plan for their lives together that’s now thirty years old and has largely come true. Griffin left screenwriting and Los Angeles behind for the sort of New England college his snobby academic parents had always aspired to in vain; they’d moved into an old house full of character and they’d started a family. Check, check and check.
But be careful what you strive for, especially if you manage to achieve it. By the end of this perfectly lovely weekend, the past has so thoroughly swamped the present that the future suddenly hangs in the balance. And when, a year later, a far more important wedding takes place, their daughter Laura’s, on the coast of Maine, Griffin’s chauffeuring two urns of ashes as he contends once more with Joy and her large, unruly family, and both he and she have brought dates along. How in the world could this have happened?
That Old Cape Magic is a novel of introspection and every family feeling imaginable, with a middle-aged man confronting his parents and their failed marriage, his own troubled marriage, his daughter’s new life and, finally, what it was he thought he wanted and what in fact he has. The storytelling is flawless throughout, moments of great comedy and even hilarity alternating with others of rueful understanding and heart-stopping sadness, and its ending is at once surprising and hopeful.