Alexandra Jacobs, who reviewed Red Hook Road in the New York Times, described it as “Victorian in tone” and I agree. In fact, the book that I was most reminded of when reading this was Morningside Heights, by Cheryl Mendelsohn, which I described as a Victorian novel when I wrote about it in this post. The two books have other similarities as well: both are about a certain kind of educated Jewish New Yorker, rich in culture if not in dollars, sure that their way is the best way.
Becca (from Manhattan) spends every summer at her family’s vacation home in Maine. There she meets and falls in love with John, native Mainer, ship builder, whose mother cleans Becca’s family’s house. But alas, on the way to their wedding reception, Becca and John are killed in a freak car accident. We are left with Iris and Jane, the respective mothers, who circle each other warily across the vast lake of their class differences. The car accident happens right at the beginning of the book; most of the novel concerns the efforts of Iris and Jane (and their other children and spouses) to heal, to connect, to move on from this tragedy.
I didn’t like either Iris or Jane. Iris is smugly superior, manipulative, and a really bad listener. Jane is cold, repressed, and closed-minded. The rest of the characters run the gamut from unique to predictable – the same goes for the action that shores up the remainder of the story.
A lot of people don’t like Ayelet Waldman, though she must sell a lot of books to get a nice hardcover treatment and a review in the Times. I would try another book by her; this was sufficiently entertaining and well-written to keep me occupied, despite my complaints.
(Book 18, 2011)