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Publisher's Summary

In her best-selling debut, Commencement, J. Courtney Sullivan explored the complicated and contradictory landscape of female friendship. Now, in her highly anticipated second novel, Sullivan takes us into even richer territory, introducing four unforgettable women who have nothing in common but the fact that, like it or not, they're family.

For the Kellehers, Maine is a place where children run in packs, showers are taken outdoors, and old Irish songs are sung around a piano. Their beachfront property, won on a barroom bet after the war, sits on three acres of sand and pine nestled between stretches of rocky coast, with one tree bearing the initials "A.H." At the cottage, built by Kelleher hands, cocktail hour follows morning mass, nosy grandchildren snoop in drawers, and decades-old grudges simmer beneath the surface.

As three generations of Kelleher women descend on the property one summer, each brings her own hopes and fears. Maggie is thirty-two and pregnant, waiting for the perfect moment to tell her imperfect boyfriend the news; Ann Marie, a Kelleher by marriage, is channeling her domestic frustration into a dollhouse obsession and an ill-advised crush; Kathleen, the black sheep, never wanted to set foot in the cottage again; and Alice, the matriarch at the center of it all, would trade every floorboard for a chance to undo the events of one night, long ago.

By turns wickedly funny and achingly sad, Maine unveils the sibling rivalry, alcoholism, social climbing, and Catholic guilt at the center of one family, along with the abiding, often irrational love that keeps them coming back, every summer, to Maine and to each other.

©2011 J. Courtney Sullivan (P)2011 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"I have never stayed at this cottage in Maine, or any cottage in Maine, but no matter: I now feel I know what it's like being in a family that comes to the same place summer after summer, unpacking their familiar longings, slights, shorthand conversation, and ways of being together. J. Courtney Sullivan's Maine is evocative, funny, close-quartered, and highly appealing." (Meg Wolitzer, author of The Uncoupling)
"Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan is a powerful novel about the ties that bind families tight, no matter how dysfunctional. Sullivan has created in the Kelleher women a cast of flawed but lovable characters so real, with their shared history of guilt and heartache and secret resentments, that I’m sure I’ll be thinking about them for a long time to come." (Amy Greene, author of Bloodroot)
"Everyone has dark secrets. It’s why God invented confession and booze, two balms frequently employed in Sullivan’s well-wrought sophomore effort. Alice Brennan is Irish American through and through, the daughter of a cop, a good Catholic girl so outwardly pure that she’s a candidate for the papacy... As Sullivan’s tale unfolds, there are plenty of reasons that Alice might wish to avoid taking too close a look at her life: There’s tragedy and heartbreak around every corner, as there is in every life... Sullivan spins a leisurely yarn that looks into why people do the things they do - particularly when it comes to drinking and churchgoing - and why the best-laid plans are always the ones the devil monkeys with the most thoroughly. The story will be particularly meaningful to Catholic women, though there are no barriers to entry for those who are not of that faith. Mature, thoughtful, even meditative at times - but also quite entertaining." ( Kirkus)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall

Hope author stays true as she continues to write

Listening to this, I felt that my own Mother had been plopped into the story and renamed. Ms Sullivan so pulled together several generations of women and respected each era they were from. I often try to do this also so I can understand younger people.

I read her first book and enjoyed it and was not disappointed with her second.

The narrator was not the best I have heard but the story line kept me reading any chance I could grab.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Laurie
  • Florence, KY, United States
  • 07-16-11

A plain brain drain

This book sounded like it had so much potential. What a disappointment! The main character is so unlikeable I was hoping she died early in the book (she doesn't). The other characters are stupid and uninteresting. But the worst part of the listen is the narrator. She speaks so slowly it sounds as if she is trying to read to a 2 year old, and the awful "Bwhosston"accent just grates on your nerves. DO NOT waste a credit!!

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

OK story, annoying reader!

I had to stop listening to this book, though I had read good things about it and was looking forward to it. The reader sounds as if she is reading to toddlers, she is so slow and "flight attendant-ish." Having just finished listening to a book read by Hope Davis, who is terrific, this reader seemed intolerable.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Need for audio editing

I am a long-term Audible listener and have listened to hundreds of audiobooks. The narration of J. Courtney Sullivan's novel is one of the most inconsistent readings. I was amazed to hear at least three errors where characters are incorrectly identified (not Kathleen) and timeline is inaccurate (If Kathleen and Maggie leave after the July 4th fireworks, then they are leaving on July 5 - not August 5). Someone needs to do some serious editing with this audiobook.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A poor choice

As unlikable a cast of characters as I have met in a long time. And the narrator's attempted breathy, yet inconsistent, Boston accent is, at best, annoying. Not worth giving it the listening time.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


I bought this book when it had a higher rating. The only reson I did not skip to the end is that there are so many charcters, I wanted to know what happened to a few of them. Skip this book is right!

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Annoying and Unfulfilling!

The narrator is enough to make me scream! Her voice promotes my dislike for most of these characters. Alice is downright ugly and unlikeable in spite of her great tragedy. Can't say I would recommend this book. It would be like recommending someone for root canal...

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • cheryl
  • United States
  • 10-18-13

Everyone seemed angry.

Would you consider the audio edition of Maine to be better than the print version?

Yes in print I may not have finished this one.

What other book might you compare Maine to and why?

Nothing to compare it with.

Which character – as performed by Ann Marie Lee – was your favorite?

The granddaughter who is expecting a baby

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Family drama at it's best... or worst.

Any additional comments?

This wasn't as good as I wanted it to be.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Allie
  • culver city, CA, United States
  • 10-02-13

I don't Always Write Reviews, But When I do..

...You Know the Book is Superb.

This book turned me into a huge Sullivan fan. Gorgeous writing, refreshing plot, realistic characters, far from cliche.
I'm neither Irish nor from the East Coast, but Sullivan basically described my family and some of the people In my life-that's how nuanced and realistic her characters are. And that's why they are likable-because they are relatable, they are real. Sullivan's psychological insight into family dynamics and dysfunction is a real talent. She provides an unbiased view into characters' motives and motivations and reveals how simple misunderstandings and differences of character can develop into feuds and hurts, and also, how simply sometimes they can resolve- how funny life can be.
Caveat: The narrator spoke slowly and overly dramatically. I got used to her mid-novel though, so don't let that detract you from purchasing this.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

The ending was awful

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

NO. At first i really enjoyed getting to know the characters but the abrupt ending ruined it for me.

Has Maine turned you off from other books in this genre?

No.Just ones by this auther

What does Ann Marie Lee bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

She developed the characters nicely and then ended the sotry. very disappointing

Did Maine inspire you to do anything?

I would like to visit Maine again. her descriptions were beautiful.

Any additional comments?

WAs really enjoying the book until the end. very disappointed.

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  • Overall
  • Helen
  • 12-29-12

Fabulous Family Saga

This was my first audiobook and I've never looked back. Easy to get in to but full of surprises along the way and with some really well drawn characters - not all of them likeable, but all totally believable and I love the way you're given a bit more information with each chapter to piece together the complex relationships between three generations of women (there are men in there too, but I think they play second fiddle to the girls in this book!) This is a fabulous holiday read (listen) - it's pretty long but I promise you won't be bored - in fact you'll have to stay awake because you'll be desperate to hear what happens next! Highly recommended.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Sarah
  • 08-24-17

believable characters living their lives

nothing startling happened but the beautiful characterisation made it intriging to follow their lives. recommend

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  • Alexandra
  • 03-07-15

Don't know why I stuck it out

Well that was a disappointment. I didn't ever care much about any of the characters and it never really came to anything though I felt it should do. Don't get me wrong I like a gentle story or film but this lacked something when it had the potential to be a decent story.
The writing method of one character per chapter can be a good writing device though perhaps is getting a little old.
The only reason I gave it 2 stars is that the reader made a decent job of it.
I am left wondering why I bothered to persist and resenting the waste of time.
I found Alice an unsympathetic character even knowing how she had suffered. Even then that didn't explain how anyone could be so mean other than because of their alcohol problems.
I won't continue - maybe I just missed the point. I'm a loyal reader and it's very rare for me to want to give up before the end, or to write such a poor review.

  • Overall
  • sarahmoose2000
  • 07-17-11

Families - who'd have them?

Nobody in this book was likeable. The matriarch was a nasty piece of work always belittling her kids. The summer house they go to in Maine is the focal point of a family argument that affects the generations.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful