Sunday, August 15, 2010

Red Hook Road (Ayelet Waldman)

In literary history, what are most remembered are the characters and their inner turmoils. Even to those unfamiliar with To Kill a Mockingbird's plot, they know Atticus Finch and Scout. A reader may not remember how Alice met The Mad Hatter, but they know the characters. Red Hook Road excels in character study. If the entire novel stayed true to this, it would be Waldman's tour de force. Alas, it does not.

The novel begins at the Red Hook, Maine, summer wedding of Becca Copaken and John Tetherly....young, vivacious, with their whole lives in front of them. While their families and guests wait for them at their reception, they are given the tragic news that the couple has died in a limousine accident. Two families, of very different social classes, have become unwittingly united in their grief in the succeeding summers in Red Hook. Broken apart at times, but forever together, Red Hook Road is the story of the Copakens...Iris, Daniel, Ruthie, and Mr. Kimmelbrod, and the Tetherlys...Jane, Matt, and Mr. Kimmelbrod's protege', Samantha.

I found myself engrossed in these characters until the last few chapters, when Waldman no longer focuses on them. Somehow a microburst (a tornado-like storm) pops up right over the Copakens' annual Fourth of July gathering (how convenient). The Tetherlys and Copakens must work together to survive this out-of-nowhere storm. And lo and behold, they do, and they are not separated anymore! Waldman's coda then comes out of nowhere.

I couldn't wait to finish this book to rush to my blog and give it a 5! Why, oh why, did Waldman have to go and write a cliched plot device at the end? Focus on characters, Ms Waldman, and you'll have a winner every time!