Monday, June 27, 2011

Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman

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)


Amused said...

Now I'm nervous to try it! I've had this one sitting on my shelf for quite some time so someday I know I'll read it.

Cath said...

This wasn't my favorite book by far, but I have to admite that some of the emotions were good. There were a few times when I read a turn of phrase and thought it was genius. In between those phrases, though...

Anonymous said...

She's also married to Michael Chabon, which probably helps her in the publishing world. Although I think she sells plenty of books on her own, too.
Sometimes she makes me laugh and I think she knows her way around prose, but on the other hand, sometimes her characters and subjects rankle.

Julia said...

I find her work very uneven, though some of them are pretty good. I liked Daughter's Keeper. Unfortunately, every time NPR gets her on the air I decide that she's annoying, which doesn't make me want to run right out and read her books.

Gayle said...

I agree that she is uneven. This book was good, and at times her writing is genius, but there were too many passages filled with unnecessary detail (like about how to make a violin). I'd recommend Love and Other Impossible Pursuits - I liked that one better.

Post a Comment