Maine, by J. Courtney Sullivan, is a sprawling novel, set in the present day but going back as far the forties. Although centered around Alice Brennan Kelleher, the 83 year old matriarch of a large Boston Irish family, the novel alternates among the perspectives of Alice, her daughter Kathleen, granddaughter Maggie, and daughter-in-law Ann Marie. Each woman's chapters focus in depth on her perceptions of this particularly dysfunctional family and how it's everybody else's fault that things are the way they are. This one drinks too much. So does that one. That one's a reformed alcoholic, and what a sanctimonious bitch she is. And so on.
That said, J. Courtney Sullivan, author most recently of Commencement, a similarly structured novel, does a really good job of it. Despite my best efforts I was sucked into the drama of the Kelleher women, siding with each in turn as her aspect of the story came round again. And when all four of the women finally came together at the familial vacation home in Maine--well over 200 pages into the novel--the novel, too, came together. Would that we had spent more time in Maine!
Maine is Lady Lit (yes, capital L capital L) at its best. Sullivan will have a bestseller with this one, and I'll look forward to each successive novel she brings us.