EXCERPT: And maybe this is where the story begins. If the younger sister was the terrible middle, and the old poet, seen at long last through the eyes of love, was the end, then this, the poets began to believe – and it frightened them in its starkness – might be the start.
Who picked her stepmother up at the train station? They all did.
A huddle of poets, braced against the whipping wind off the icy river, sheltered only by each other’s warmth. The train crept in to a stop. They already felt the escaped curl on the collar. The sexy wisp. As if the old poet had bequeathed them something delicious. Alive. Breathing.
ABOUT ‘THE OCEAN HOUSE: STORIES’: Faith, a mother of two young children, Cece and Connor, is in need of summer childcare. As a member of a staid old beach club in her town and a self-made business consultant, she is appalled when her brother-in-law sends her an unruly, ill-mannered teenager named Lee-Ann who appears more like a wayward child than competent help. What begins as a promising start to a redemptive relationship between the two ends in a tragedy that lands Faith in a treatment facility, leveled by trauma.
Years later, Faith and her mother, Irene, visit Cece in college. A fresh-faced student with a shaved head and new boyfriend, Cece has become a force of her own. Meanwhile, her grandmother, Irene, is in the early stages of dementia. She slips in and out of clarity, telling lucid tales of her own troubled youth. Faith dismisses her mother’s stories as bids for attention. The three generations of women hover between wishful innocence and a more knowing resilience against the cruelty that hidden secrets of the past propel into the present.
MY THOUGHTS: I don’t know quite what I was expecting, but I didn’t get it. And when I say ‘I didn’t get it,’ I really didn’t get it.
I love interconnecting stories. I adore Elizabeth Strout’s work. But The Ocean House didn’t work for me. The publicity blurb says ‘The Ocean House weaves an exquisite world of complicated family tales on the Jersey Shore.’ Complicated is right. I found the writing restless and fidgety. I felt confused. If ever a book needed a family tree, this is it. I couldn’t get a handle on the characters at all, let alone figure out how they were connected.
I abandoned this read at 33%. I really wanted to like The Ocean House of which, btw, the only mention made of it by the time I abandoned the read was that it was let out for the summer and Cece was expected to clean it when the tenants moved out in return for subsidized rent on her apartment.
I think the cover is exquisite. I would have liked the contents to be equally so.
Reading is a personal and subjective experience, and what appeals to one may not please another. So if you enjoyed the excerpt from The Ocean House, and the plot outline appeals, please do go ahead and read it. Just because it wasn’t for me, doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy this.
THE AUTHOR: Mary-Beth Hughes is the author of the bestselling novel Wavemaker II, a New York Times Notable Book, and the acclaimed collection Double Happiness, which earned a Pushcart Prize. Her latest book, The Loved Ones, was a New York Times Editors’ Choice. Her stories have been published in The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Georgia Review, and A Public Space. She lives in Brooklyn and Rhinebeck, New York. (Amazon)
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Grove Atlantic via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Ocean House: Stories by Mary-Beth Hughes for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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