I picked up Ayelet Waldman’s latest novel, Red Hook Road, with high hopes. A few years ago I read Love and Other Impossible Pursuits and it left a lasting impression – the mother’s grief, her awkward relationship with her stepson and the strain in her marriage were finely detailed and absolutely heart-wrenching. I was also sucked in because I love a little author hoopla and Waldman got it in spadefuls when she declared in an interview that she loved her husband more than her children - kapow!
Red Hook Road revisits some of these themes – mothers’ grief, unravelling of relationships, death. The story is set on the coast of Maine over the course of four summers and tells the story of two families, the Tetherlys and the Copakens, and how they deal with a tragic accident.
Unfortunately, Red Hook Road missed the mark for me. All the raw emotion was missing and the characters felt contrived – the ‘try-harder’ younger sister Ruthie, the ‘superior’ mother, Iris (a New Yorker and therefore classed as a ‘from-away’ to the year round residents of Red Hook), the ‘inferior’ mother, Jane, the distant father…blah, blah, blah…a roll call of cliches.
I did like this little snippet – a conversation between the father, Daniel, and a doctor, who is stiching up his cut eye (the result of a boxing match) -
“You know a few years ago I took up flying.”
“Flying?” (says Daniel)
“Yuh. Almost bought myself a Cessna. You’re all done.” He sat back, snapped off his rubber gloves, and shot them into the trash can.
“Almost?” Daniel said.
“Came to my senses and got a divorce instead.”
I did like the setting and the descriptions of the lobster dinners… But that’s not really enough, is it? Speaking of lobster….a Maine Lobster Roll would go down a treat.
Read Red Hook Road with a large bowl of pistachios by your side – you’ll need something tasty to keep you going.
2/5 (that’s an okay but you’ll get more enjoyment sitting on Rosebud beach in your nana chair looking at the water than you will with your nose in this book).