• That Old Cape Magic

  • A Novel
  • By: Richard Russo
  • Narrated by: Arthur Morey
  • Length: 9 hrs and 7 mins
  • 3.7 out of 5 stars (383 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Following Bridge of Sighs - a national best seller hailed by The Boston Globe as “an astounding achievement” and “a masterpiece” - 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.

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, in the course of which they drafted the Great Truro Accord, a plan for their lives together that’s now 30 years old and has largely come true. He’d 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 pray 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 beloved 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 deep introspection and every family feeling imaginable, with a middle-aged man confronting his parents and their failed marriage, his own troubled one, 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, uplifting, and unlike anything this Pulitzer Prize winner has ever written.

©2009 Richard Russo (P)2009 Random House

What listeners say about That Old Cape Magic

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Instantly-recognizable Richard Russo book

I really like Richard Russo and, while this book is not as good as "Nobody's Fool" or "Empire Falls", it's recognizably Russo and very satisfying.
Russo takes a long time to develop his characters - that's part of his style and charm. If you're not willing to be patient and let the story unfold, then you probably won't like this book (or any of his other ones).
That said, this book struck me almost like "Russo Abridged". There were some time and character jumps that, in previous books, would have been explored in much more detail. The other books were all at least twice as long, and the difference shows.
Even without the normal depth of character development, I liked these characters, cared what happened to them, and didn't want the book to end.
While it's not the best Russo book ever, I found it enjoyable and extremely easy to slip back into Russo's world and way of writing. Also, it's narrated well, which always helps. I recommend it, particularly if you've read and enjoyed any of his other books.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

What you buy Russo books for....

Richard Russo fans think about his books like Yogi Berra thinks about pizza. You don't buy Russo for the drama, the sex & violence, or the crisp pace. You get them for the character development, the subtlety, and the insight into life. All of those are abundantly present in "Cape Magic". The characters aren't quite as colorful as those in "Nobody's Fool", but they are consistent with the setting of the novel. This book is probably more like "Straight Man", but there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Although the characters weren't as fully developed as in his earlier novels, I found the fast forward time skips interesting. By explaining the death of the protagonist's mother in retrospect following the hiatus, Russo leaves room for the reader to sort out the impact. Overall, it was somewhat different from Russo's earlier works, but still excellent.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Entertaining

Perhaps not one of Richard Russo's best, but fun to read nonetheless. If you know and love Cape Cod, you may experience an added layer of enjoyment.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

I stuck with it till the end...

This book was horrible. Sorry to be so blunt, but really wish someone warned me. The man character is a man in his 50's...I never figured out what he was so unhappy about. The whole story goes on and on and on about his unhappy childhood and his dissatisfaction with his life. Yet no major trauma or infliction is revealed.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

In The Middle

I absolutely loved Nobody's Fool and was very dissappointed with The Straight Man. This was in the middle of those two. I appreciate Russo's tales for his male perspective. The story is still interesting to me, as a woman, as I can relate to many (not all) of the family, growing up quirks he describes. Families and marriages are never very simple and neither is this story.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Guess ya gotta be a Russo fan...

How anyone, who is a fan, does not like this book makes my eyes cross. This book has more humor than I found in any of the other books. And I "read" them all. If you are considering this and are a fan, my money is on the fact that you will enjoy it! I sure did!!

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

thumbs down

Although I have read Russo twice before ("Empire Falls" and "Bridge of Sighs") I found this novel basically boring and wondering why I should care about the protagonist or his problems (I get it... his parents could not love him... let's move on). I do recognize how brilliantly the author can construct a sentence and was many times blown away by his prose, but I would not recommend this novel.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

a bit of a disappointment

Not a terrible book, but a bit shallow and without the wit the author usually displays. I'll finish it, but it doesn't keep me sitting in the parking lot waiting for a good stopping place before I turn it off.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Nothing to write home to Mother about

I had to listen to this whole thing for a bookclub and frequently wanted to ask, "Are we there yet?". It was labored and self-conscious with a bizarre seasoning of slap-stick. Huh??

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Slow

So confusing when the author switches from person to person and time and place. I kept waiting for something to happen. Depressing.

2 people found this helpful