As lyrical as a sonata, Ayelet Waldman’s follow-up novel to Love and Other Impossible Pursuits explores the aftermath of a family tragedy.
Set on the coast of Maine over the course of four summers, Red Hook Road tells the story of two families, the Tetherlys and the Copakens, and of the ways in which their lives are unraveled and stitched together by misfortune, by good intentions and failure, and by love and calamity.
A marriage collapses under the strain of a daughter’s death; two bereaved siblings find comfort in one another; and an adopted young girl breathes new life into her family with her prodigious talent for the violin. As she writes with obvious affection for these unforgettable characters, Ayelet Waldman skillfully interweaves life’s finer pleasures—music and literature—with the more mundane joys of living. Within this resonant novel, a vase filled with wildflowers or a cold beer on a hot summer day serve as constant reminders that it’s often the little things that make life so precious.
©2010 Ayelet Waldman (P)2010 Random House
"A thoroughly gripping and elegantly written story about love, grief, friendship, and the unexpected ways in which disaster brings families together. The novel is chockfull of revelations and insights on how people both unravel and manage to find grace under strain." (Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner)
"In her latest novel, Red Hook Road, Ayelet Waldman has nailed the indelible mark that the state of Maine leaves on all visitors who fall for its subtle, insinuating glamour. Red Hook Road is a terrific novel, and might even be a great one." (Pat Conroy, Amazon.com review)
So many reviews of this book I have read so far focus on the topic of grief being the main thread. True, the book begins with a tragedy and the story unfolds within an envelope of grief and loss, but it is more about the interactions of two cultures in a small town in Maine - the advantaged, elitist summer people and the local "townies". Waldman, herself a daughter of a culturally mixed family, as set forth in her memoir "Bad Mother", handles the combinations, relationships, and odd juxtapositions and unlikely pairings with such depth, accuracy, beauty and polish that the novel amazes the reader at every twist and turn. Metaphors and connections abound, delighting and astounding the reader with their precision and subtlety; Waldman is no heavy-handed purveyor of symbolism.
This reader alternates between loving and hating one of the main characters - at times shrewish, superior-minded and unrelenting in her pedantic insistence on getting her way, and at times knowing that "her way" is really maybe one of the best ways. And, in the end, she becomes more accepting with more of a "laissez-faire" perspective.
As a leitmotif there is the theme of professional musicianship, musical allusions - instead of an "epilogue" there is a "coda" - and the development of a child prodigy. The rocky Maine coast and its mercurial weather patterns become a veritable character in the story.
The narrator's contribution is brilliant as well, using a hard, no BS Maine dialect to further entrench the Mainers in their attitudinal stances, and rendering with no accent the well-educated, culturally advantaged summer people.
Fine art photographer, retired English professor, dog mom to an adorable Maltese mix, long-time Californian, genealogist, what else?
Though I don't usually read family stories, I found Red Hook Road overall very enjoyable. It's about the aftermath of a tragic incident that brings together two very unlike mothers who are forced to deal with situations together as life goes on. It's touching and for the most part very well written. I've read some criticisms that the two main characters, the mothers, are unlikeable, and while I get that, I found them rich enough characters that even though there were definitely unlikeable things about them, I still felt empathy for them and understood how life had shaped them in those particular ways. Iris, in particular, while extremely irritating in her desire to control anything and everything in her path, was still vulnerable enough and showed enough kindness and love that her negative qualities didn't really bother me. On the downside, the plot is a little contrived, and there's a bit of deus ex machina at the end. But it's well worth a read, if this is the kind of novel you enjoy. I also thought the ending dragged out a bit -- as I was listening to it in the car, I kept thinking, "Okay, that's got to be the last sentence . . . " but it wasn't. As far as the audiobook is concerned, the reading is very good with one minor complaint -- the female reader speaks the male voices in a register that's so low it really sounds forced and unnatural. I get that they have to differentiate the voices somehow, but I found it distracting, especially the voice of the father. But overall, the audiobook was great, and the book itself worth the read, if you like that type of story. It's not my usual choice, but I enjoyed it.
I really enjoyed this book. However, being a native of central Maine, I think the narrator could have done a little more research and correctly pronounced some of the words and expressions that she obviously tried very hard to master. For instance, "Machias" is not pronounced "MaKYis", it's MaCHYis". Bangor is not "BANG ER", it's "BANG GOR". She did a pretty good job with the "downeast" Maine accents for the most part, I know it couldn't have been easy. All in all, I would recommend this book to others.
Having enjoyed the writer's previous books I was looking forward to listening to this one, but am disappointed. The characters are flat and the story is depressing, dull, and unoriginal. The narration seems forced and serves to highlight the novel's flaws.
Very rarely, an audiobook comes along that I just cannot finish. This was one of those. Each chapter is way too long and it just became monotonous. Obviously, other listeners enjoyed it, but after listening to half of it, I had to stop.
Oh my, another sad and long book about grief. Whatever you do, don't listen to this and Every Last One one after the other, as I have done. You're in for one long long period of grief and sorrow. Otherwise, an okay book but not great. I loved the references to classical music and listened to every piece mentioned here especially Bach's Chaconne. For that, thank you Ms Waldman
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