Monday, July 26, 2010

Review: Red Hook Road

Summary: Set on the coast of Maine over the course of four summers, Red Hook Road tells the story of two families, the Tetherlys and the Copakens, and of the ways in which their lives are unraveled and stitched together by misfortune, by good intentions and failure, and by love and calamity.

A marriage collapses under the strain of a daughter’s death; two bereaved siblings find comfort in one another; and an adopted young girl breathes new life into her family with her prodigious talent for the violin. As she writes with obvious affection for these unforgettable characters, Ayelet Waldman skillfully interweaves life’s finer pleasures—music and literature—with the more mundane joys of living. Within these resonant pages, a vase filled with wildflowers or a cold beer on a hot summer day serve as constant reminders that it’s often the little things that make life so precious. -- Doubleday

Can I just share how much I love EW's Summer Book recommendations? I am so glad that I decided to take the plunge and host the 2010 EW Summer Books Challenge (even though I really don't have the best track record with challenges) because their list of books is fantastic. The latest book that they recommended and which I absolutely adored is RED HOOK ROAD by Ayelet Waldman. I don't think I can rave enough about this book -- I just loved it! It might just be my favorite one so far!

I actually read RED HOOK ROAD while on my vacation at the shore. I have been dying to read it, so I thought it would be the perfect time. I have to say that RED HOOK ROAD wasn't exactly my typical beach read. While it was a beautifully written novel, it wasn't a light (or fun) book. This novel explored the aftermath of a horrific tragedy on two families. It was, at times, almost difficult to read and digest; but this book was just so good and it was well worth reading!

I don't want to go into much detail about the various characters and how this tragedy forever changed their lives because I want you to experience this book like I did -- knowing almost nothing about it. However, I can say that every single character in this story, especially the parents and siblings, managed their loss in a different way. What was so wonderful was that each person's handling of their grief was very believable and very honest and very much in keeping with their character. There is no doubt that each family member had some issues prior to the tragedy (whose life is perfect?), but when faced with such a life-changing event, their complexities and flaws were definitely illuminated.

Another part of RED HOOK ROAD that really stood out for me was how Ms. Waldman told this story. She began with a prelude which described the tragedy in a tone that was almost distant and very factual. Then she told the story in four separate sections which took place over the course of four summers. She ended the novel with a coda in the same vein as the prelude. I loved seeing not only the immediate effects of the accident on the families, but seeing how each character evolved (or attempted to grieve) over the next three years. I thought it was an extremely effective way to tell their stories.

I seem to read a fair amount of books that deal with the processes of loss, but few have affected me like RED HOOK ROAD. My heart went out to each and every characters, and I found myself sympathizing with characters that I might not have otherwise really related to. I have to give a tremendous amount of credit to Ms. Waldman for truly capturing the feelings of loss and grief in this novel. In addition, she did an outstanding job of showing the many different ways that each person attempts to deal with grief while also showing the resilience of the human spirit. You can't help but be touched by this novel.

I have read books by Ayelet Waldman in the past and enjoyed them, but RED HOOK ROAD really stood out for me as a very special book. Ms. Waldman's prose is just perfect and I can't rave enough about how beautiful her writing was in this novel. She managed to bring to life the community of East Red Hook with her vivid descriptions. However, she also created some extremely memorable characters and captured the essence of the pain that they were experiencing.

After I finished RED HOOK ROAD, I turned to my husband and said that this novel is truly the perfect book club pick. I just wanted to discuss the characters and their motivations with someone! Fortunately, there is a reader's guide available which delves into many of the same topics that I wanted to talk about. Some of the themes your group might want to explore include grief, resentment, guilt, the definition of family, traditions, loss and new beginnings. I can honestly tell you that there are hours of potential talking points in RED HOOK ROAD.

As you can clearly see, I just loved this novel -- I hope my review wasn't too over the top. It was a difficult review to write because I want to share my excitement about this book, but at the same time, I don't want to set your expectations so high that you might be disappointed if you don't love RED HOOK ROAD the way I did.

Maybe I just should have said -- "READ THIS BOOK!" and left it at that.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy of this novel.

18 comments:

Mary said...

Thanks for the review! Every book I've read on the challenge list so far has been good. Might need to bump this one up to the top! Thank you also for the BBQ 25 review. I'm going to buy that for Mr Hubby for his birthday.

Kay said...

What a great review. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts about this book. I'm planning on reading it in the upcoming months. I've read other books by this author - part of her mystery series I think and enjoyed those. Looking forward to this one.

bermudaonion said...

Wow! That sounds fantastic! I can't wait to read it - I'll move it up my TBR pile a little.

Beth F said...

Oh wow. I wonder if I have a copy of this in the house. Besides your glowing review, the fact that the book is set in Maine is another winner for me.

bookfanmary said...

I have to say the setting is what first caught my eye and then I started to hear more and more buzz so I pre-ordered it a few months ago. It's now on my shelf waiting to be read. Wonderful review!
I think I'll take the EW challenge next summer :)

S. Krishna said...

Great, great review. I've had this ARC sitting on my shelf for months but you've convinced me to put it at the top of my list.

Beth Hoffman said...

Terrific review, Julie. I really want to read this!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I am so glad to hear how good this is! I too have it in my TBR pile!

Beth Kephart said...

I just this moment read the Washington Post Book World review of this book, then went to Amazon to see other reviews, then came to you. AW's career has been interesting, and it's great to see how much her book has moved you.

pinkflipflops said...

this is the second raving review of this i have read.. i need to read it!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Alright, this is the second review I've read on this book, and you are working on it. How many more will I have to read before I give in?

Gerbera Daisy Mom said...

I want this book! Bad!! I may have to succumb and go buy it.

Amused said...

You've totally sold me on this book! Can't wait to check it out!

Jenny Girl said...

Thanks for the review! I have been drawn to these types of books lately, and I must admit I enjoy them very much. I'm adding it to the TBR.

nomadreader said...

I read this one recently too and loved it. I read it in a single sitting and found it incredibly emotionally affecting.

thebluestockingsociety said...

I've been seeing this book pop up on a lot of blogs lately, but your review sealed the deal. I must read this one!

Florinda said...

I'm just finishing writing my own review of this, and yours came up when I searched for links to other reviews to include. Lately, it seems like you and I have had some VERY similar takes on books, and this is another one! Great minds think alike (?) :-D

herartichokeheart said...

I just read "Red Hook Road" and really liked it -- I agree with your review!