30 June 2011

Red Hook Road


First line:  The flower girl had lost her basket of rose petals and could not bear to have the photograph taken without it.

Publisher’s synopsis:  In the aftermath of a devastating wedding day, two families, the Tetherlys and the Copakens, find their lives unraveled by unthinkable loss. Over the course of the next four summers in Red Hook, Maine, they struggle to bridge differences of class and background to honor the memory of the couple, Becca and John. As Waldman explores the unique and personal ways in which each character responds to the tragedy – from the budding romance between the two surviving children, Ruthie and Matt, to the struggling marriage between Iris, a high strung professor in New York, and her husband Daniel – she creates a powerful family portrait and a beautiful reminder of the joys of life. 

I didn't love it, I didn't hate it. I'm not really sure how I feel about it. At times I was wrapped up in it, at others I could hardly stay focused. It seemed to take forever to read, though partly because the print is so tiny, and when I was tired the words started to blur.

I didn't really feel empathy for most of the characters. I cannot even begin to imagine the horror of losing your child, but even knowing the grief the family members were going through, I had trouble feeling sorry for them or connected to them.

The focus of the book is on the families of a bride and groom who are killed on their wedding day. The bride's family summer in Red Hook, the groom's family live in the area. All are grieving of course, albeit in different ways. The book takes place over the course of four summers.

Samantha is a young cousin of the groom, adopted from Cambodia and spending time between her mother, who is often hospitalized, and her aunt, the groom's mother. She loves music and is a natural, though having had no formal training whatsoever. She loves her mother. She's a quiet, introspective child, who is keenly aware of how different she is from everyone around her. When she meets Mr. Kimmelbrod, the bride's grandfather and a renowned violinist, they form a wonderful friendship and mentor/student relationship. I loved watching her grow and blossom, and I appreciated Iris, the bride's mother, for wanting to nurture her and her talent.

I also have a much better understanding of and appreciation for classical musicians, as well as for the sport of boxing - the bride's father, Daniel, was a boxer before marrying her mother, and he deals with his grief by going back to the gym and training again.

Matt and Ruthie are the groom's brother and the bride's sister, and they find themselves turning to each other for solace and comfort. I liked their story, though I can't help but feel their relationship won't last much beyond the end of the book. They're young, and in a way their relationship was a rebound thing.

Of the two mothers, the book focused much more on Iris, the bride's mother, than on Jane, mother of the groom. I didn't feel I got to know Jane much at all. The two women are not friends, and Jane comes across as stiff and bitter, appearing to have been so even before the tragic accident. And Iris, while her heart is in the right place, is demanding and controlling.

Overall, the writing was often lyrical and even poetic at times, but never particularly grabbed me, and I was glad to finish and ready to move onto something lighter and less depressing.

(I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.)

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