Monday, June 13, 2011

The 'Maine' event

By Meredith Deliso

At nearly 400 hardcover pages, “Maine” is the least convenient beach read. But it’ll be worth toting around this summer.

In fact, J. Courtney Sullivan’s follow-up to her best-selling debut, “Commencement,” is shaping up to be a major beach read this summer, thanks in part to its setting — a summer at a Cape Neddick vacation home — but also its engaging, fully realized characters.

The ambitious novel (there’s a reason it’s 400 pages) follows three generations of Kelleher women — the fear-instilling but beautiful mother, Alice; her daughter, Kathleen, the black sheep of the family who’s moved across the country to work on a worm farm; her seemingly perfect, doll house-obsessed stepdaughter, Ann Marie; and her granddaughter, Maggie, a writer living in Brooklyn Heights who is pregnant, and freshly broken up with her boyfriend.

The cross-generation set-up allowed the Park Slope writer to explore a theme integral to her work.

“I am fascinated by the idea of how women develop personally in the context of the world that they are raised in, and live in as adults,” said Sullivan. “Everything I’ve written so far, I’ve looked at that.”

“Maine” has also provided the author to explore such heavy hitters as alcoholism, sibling rivalry and Catholic guilt, in a novel that can be achingly sad and refreshingly funny.

Sullivan is already at work on a new book — this one tackling the institution of marriage — and can be found almost daily at the Brooklyn Writers Space.

“It’s one of the most fabulous things about Brooklyn, it has totally saved me,” said Sullivan. “When I started writing full time, I always had this dream of working from home, sitting at the kitchen table, drinking tea and writing all day. But there are so many distractions when at home. At the Writers Space, you wouldn’t hear a peep.”

“Maine” is still very much on her mind, though, and Sullivan will be at Cobble Hill’s BookCourt tomorrow for a reading, which won’t be short on bringing some Maine flavor to Brooklyn — there will be lobster rolls.

J. Courtney Sullivan at BookCourt [163 Court St. between Pacific and Dean streets in Cobble Hill, (718) 875-3677], June 14 at 7 pm. Free. For info, visit


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