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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.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
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.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful