by J. Courtney Sullivan

Arlene Almas (05/31/12): This is a moving story about four women who are part of a very close extended family that spends summers on their private beachfront property in Maine. The Kellehers may even be a little too close, in fact: some of them can hardly stand each other. Alice, the matriarch, criticizes everyone constantly and drinks a lot. Her daughter Kathleen, who at one time looked as if she might follow in her mother's footsteps, is now a recovering alcoholic who runs a worm farm in California with her second husband. She also detests her mother and does not have or seek close ties with the rest of the family. Kathleen's daughter Maggie, on the other hand, does feel a need to be part of the clan, and is even willing to suffer the disparagement they dish out. Besides Maggie, who tries, often unsuccessfully, to maintain a cordial relationship with her grandmother, the only person who actually manages to stay in Alice's good graces is Ann Marie, her daughter-in-law. Sullivan not only shows us the strained relations among these women, but delves into the circumstances that led to the current tension. The author's skillful depiction of Alice, Kathleen, Maggie, and Ann Marie allows us to truly understand and empathize with them, and even wish them all well in spite of their flaws.
Rating: ****

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