Red Hook Road

Red Hook Road

by Ayelet Waldman

Hardcover

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385517867
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/13/2010
Pages: 343
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

AYELET WALDMAN is the author of Daughter’s Keeper, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, and the New York Times bestseller Bad Mother. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, New York, Elle, Vogue, and other publications, and on Salon.com. She and her husband, the novelist Michael Chabon, live in Berkeley, California, with their four children.

Hometown:

Berkeley, California

Date of Birth:

December 11, 1964

Place of Birth:

Jerusalem, Israel

Education:

Wesleyan University, 1986; Harvard Law School, 1991

Read an Excerpt

I    

The house in East Red Hook, a village a few miles outside the town of Red Hook proper, was a flight of Queen Anne fancy, with a witch-hat turret, obsessive gingerbread, multihued brickwork and tile, and a secret room hidden behind a bookcase. It was builtin 1879 by a gentleman named Elias Hewins, to the precise specifications of his much younger bride. Elias had purchased the acres of rolling oceanfront meadow for a song from a farmer who'd finally given up on coaxing anything edible from the obdurate Mainesoil. Elias had sited his new house to make the most of its view across East Red Hook's small cove, out to the tiny islands scattered along the Eggemoggin Reach like crumbs on a wide blue tablecloth. Elias's son Nathaniel was born, lived, and died in the house,then passed it on to his six adult children, all of whom had long since abandoned the Maine coast. Only Nathaniel's youngest child, his only daughter, possessed the resources and the inclination to return to East Red Hook from New York City, where her husbandhad moved her. She transformed the house where she was born into her summer home, and for decades thereafter she and her daughter Alice passed their summers in the village, with Alice's father visiting as often as his business interests would allow. In thesummer of 1940, when Alice was twenty-six years old, already in the eyes of her parents an old maid, she met a young violinist, a Jewish refugee from Prague, whose exile had landed him in, of all places, Red Hook, where he was performing with the town's renownedsummer chamber music program, at the Usherman Center. After a brief courtship, Alice married Emil Kimmelbrod, and the couple bought their own summer house, down the road in Red Hook. Their high-spirited little daughter, Iris, spent the better part of everysummer at her grandmother's, where she was free to run and play without concern for the silence demanded by her father's rigorous practice schedule.  

If they thought of it at all, Iris and her parents assumed that Iris's grandmother had either bought out her siblings, the five sons of Nathaniel Hewins, or had inherited their shares in the house as in turn they died, but upon the old woman's death itwas revealed that no such formal transfers of ownership had ever taken place. Iris's grandmother left her not the ramshackle old summer house but rather only the one-sixth share that was hers to bequeath. It took Iris nearly seven years to track down everylast one of the twenty-nine heirs, some of whom had no idea that their origins lay in a harborside village of white clapboard, blueberry bogs, and lobster boats on the Down East coast of Maine. Most of the heirs were willing to sign away their claim to therotting and sagging old house in return for their small fraction of its fair market value. But one cantankerous second cousin twice removed, a Texan, refused to sign a quit claim until Iris offered him significantly more than the $443 that was his share. Overthe objections of her husband, Daniel, who, while he enjoyed Maine well enough, felt no ties to the land or the house that would justify such an expense, Iris wrote her distant cousin a check for $3,000. As soon as the deed was clear, she began the renovations,which were to consume her time and energy for years of summers to come. Her projects were so numerous and her plans so intricate that until the last moment there had been some concern that the latest work--adding a shower to the downstairs powder room--wouldnot be finished in time for the wedding of Iris's daughter Becca to John Tetherly, the son of the woman who had been coming to clean the house since before the death of Iris's grandmother.  

Elias Hewins had nurtured pretensions of being a gentleman farmer, and not long after he built the house, he deeded a small strip of adjoining land to the local chapter of the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry. The Grange had constructedon the land a simple structure, with long, narrow, shutterless windows, a front room large enough for a town meeting, a tiny branch of the large library in Red Hook in back, and a kitchen. For generations the Grange Hall was a center of village life, but bythe time Iris took possession of her house it was little more than a hollow shell forgotten by the village that owned but neglected it. The hall's fixtures, including its cast-iron woodstove, were long since lost to vandals and unscrupulous antique hunters,and the library was in use for only the three months of summer.  

To Iris the Grange Hall was as much a part of her family's legacy as was her own house. More, perhaps, because while the house where she had spent her childhood making noise away from the hush that obtained at her parents' cottage was her home, the GrangeHall was her connection to the village itself, a symbol of the integral part her ancestors had played in the communal life of this sliver of Maine coast. Although for the past few generations they had been coming only as summer visitors, the existence of theGrange Hall proved that before that they had been Mainers. Their mortal remains populated an entire neighborhood in the town cemetery. There was a Hewins Pond, and a Hewins Road, and one found the name written not only on headstones in the cemetery but underportraits of long-dead deacons in church halls, in birth and marriage rolls, over the doorway of one of the oldest commercial buildings in town, and on the pedestals of monuments to the dead of Bull Run, Ypres, and Iwo Jima.  

She knew there was probably something absurd about it, but this record in stone and paper of her belonging to Red Hook was critical to Iris's sense of herself, of her place in the world. Half of her history derived from a part of Europe that no longerexisted, a vanished land of thirteenth-century synagogues, of cemeteries with thousand-year-old graves carved with Hebrew lettering. This side of her heritage was as lost to her as were her father's parents and siblings, killed at Terezin, and thus the Maineside, the Red Hook history, took on greater importance. Red Hook might only have been her summer residence--the rest of her life had been passed on the Upper West Side of the island of Manhattan--but her roots went deep into this rock. She had planted her daughtershere, like perennials that bloomed every summer. Even her husband, a transplant less suited, perhaps, to the climate and the land, had, she thought, laid down his own, albeit shallow, roots.  

After she took title to her ancestral home, Iris, with her customary energy and passion, took on the project of restoring the Grange Hall, applying to the state for grants, organizing rummage and bake sales, hosting bean suppers, and petitioning her neighbors,summer visitors and local people, to donate toward the hall's renovation. In the end, she'd dipped deep into her and Daniel's savings, one of the reasons that they were still making do with an ancient, unreliable furnace long after the Grange Hall had resumedits service to the village as an all-purpose gathering space.  

Today all her hopes for the Grange Hall and for the place that she had made for herself in the village had reached their apotheosis. In this beautiful building first imagined and financed by her great-great-grandfather, her daughter would celebrate hermarriage to a man whose roots in the town went deeper even than her own.  

Last week, John, Becca, and a gang of their friends had repainted the Grange Hall, and the brilliant white paint shone fresh and promising of all the renewal that summers in Maine had always meant to Iris and her daughters. Yesterday the bridesmaids hadpicked hundreds of flowers and woven fragrant garlands to festoon the wood banisters leading up the porch steps and around the front door. The hall was a riot of purple, violet, lavender--shades of Becca's favorite color. How the girls had managed to gatherso many lupines this late in the season, Iris couldn't imagine. Early this morning, Iris had filled the room with votive candles, setting them in circles on every table and in long glimmering rows on the windowsills.  

The feeling she and Becca had been going for in decorating both the Grange Hall and the Unitarian church was a kind of rustic opulence, at once simple and glorious. Profusions of fresh flowers in hand-tied bouquets tucked into mismatched china vases, whitewooden folding chairs looped with garlands, place cards written not by a calligrapher but in their own hands. She and Becca had scoured the thrift shops and rummage sales for the white lace tablecloths that were draped over the twenty round tables. The caterer,a summer visitor who served with Iris on the library board, had designed a simple but elegant meal. Organic produce from nearby farms, beef and pork from a local man who did his own slaughtering, bread and rolls baked by the local food co-op, lettuces fromIris's own vegetable garden, and a wedding cake made by a friend of the groom's who had recently received his certificate in culinary arts from Central Maine Community College.  

The caterer had obviously managed to get the range lit, because the waiters were making the rounds with the miniature crab cakes, sliders, and lobster puffs. The guitarist of the band due to play later in the evening began warming up the crowd with a preludeby Robert de Visee. Trust Becca to find a blues band fronted by a classical guitarist, Iris thought.  

Iris glanced up at the ceiling and frowned. One of the strings of white Christmas lights draped over and through the rafters had come loose; if it dropped any lower it was liable to get tangled in someone's hair. Iris's eyes skated over the crowd, searchingout her husband. Daniel Copaken was standing on the other side of the room, his hands shoved deep in his pockets, rocking back and forth on his heels. She caught his eye and beckoned him over with a raised eyebrow. He picked his way through the crowd, stoppingto shake a few proffered hands and bending over to receive a kiss on the cheek from one of their elderly neighbors.  

"It looks great in here," he said, when he finally reached her.  

"It does, if I may say so myself," Iris said. "But look up there." She pointed at the strand of wire hanging from the rafter. "The lights are fall_ing down."  

Daniel patted his pockets for the glasses he had forgotten on his nightstand. He squinted up at the misbehaving lights. "No problem," he said, climbing up on a chair. Daniel was a boxer when he and Iris met--a Golden Gloves middleweight with more thana few wins under his belt--and though he had grown thick around the middle, the muscles beneath his skin more like mere flesh and less like chunks of Red Hook granite, his broad shoulders still strained the fabric of his jacket, and after thirty years he wasstill in possession of the grace that had made him a formidable opponent in the ring. He sprang up from the chair and caught hold of the rafter, then chinned himself high enough to hook his left arm over the top of it while he grabbed hold of the wayward stringof lights with his right. Then he paused, momentarily flummoxed.  

"Hey, Iris," he said. "You wouldn't happen to have a tack on you?"  

"A tack? No."  

"Shit." He hung there in the middle of the air a moment, studying the problem of the string of lights with total absorption, seemingly unaware of the spectacle he was making. As ridiculous as it was for a man in a wedding suit to be swinging through theair like a middle-aged Spiderman impersonator, Iris couldn't help but admire the shape of his body, the line of his trapezius muscles beneath his smooth cotton shirt. In the end Daniel looped the string a few times over the rafter, and then tied the end toit as well as he could with one hand.  

"Move that chair, would you?" he said.  

Iris returned the chair to the table from which it had come, and Daniel swung a moment longer, then dropped to the ground with a lightness that was surprising in a such a solidly built man. The guests who were near enough to have observed his gymnasticdemonstration called out their appreciation. Mary Lou Curran, an older woman, a summer visitor who had chosen to retire in the cottage she, like Iris, had inherited from her grandparents, applauded. Daniel took a slight bow.  

"I guess I wore the right shoes after all," Daniel said, holding up one bright white-sneakered foot.  

"Yes, I guess you did," Iris said, trying with all her heart to mean it.

Reading Group Guide

The questions, topics for discussion, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Red Hook Road, Ayelet Waldman's rich and rewarding story of love, loss, and the power of family.

1. Red Hook Road hinges upon an almost unimaginable and unfathomable tragedy. Was it easy or difficult for you to accept the book’s premise?

2. Think about this statement by Mary Lou, the librarian at the Red Hook Library: “Half the relationships I know are really support groups in disguise.” How does Mary Lou’s assessment apply to the relationships in Red Hook Road?

3. Talk about Iris and Jane. Are they similar to one another in any way? What was at the root of Jane’s intense dislike of Iris?

4. During Iris’s visit, Connie says, “Most of us could use an asylum sometimes. A refuge from the world,” (page 239). Talk about all the different forms of sanctuary taken by key characters. Do these “escapes” help anyone deal with their grief?

5. What is your definition of “family?” Does marriage play a part in forming familial bonds, or is family created purely through blood connections? What does family mean to different characters in Red Hook Road?

6. During “The Second Summer,” Ruthie wants to turn the family’s traditional Fourth of July party into a celebration of the lives of Becca and John. What did you think of Ruthie’s idea? Can you understand why Iris rejected it?

7. Think about the comfort that people take in following traditions; can rituals help people, like the Copakens and Tetherlys, move forward after a setback, or even a tragedy? Did having the party each summer after Becca and John’s deaths ultimately help or hurt Ruthie?

8. Discuss Iris’s father, Mr. Kimmelbrod, particularly the hardships he endured as a young man. In “The Second Summer,” Kimmelbrod reproaches himself for not offering Iris more comfort after the unveiling at the cemetery. Do you think that experiencing great sadness automatically equips a person to console others?

9. Mary Lou the librarian offers this piece of advice as Ruthie considers whether to return to Oxford: “Nothing one does in one’s twenties, short of having a child, is irrevocable,” (page 196). Was this advice something Ruthie wanted to hear, needed to hear, or both? Do you agree with Mary Lou’s sentiment?

10. Consider Samantha’s role in Iris’s life. Would Iris have felt the same way toward Samantha had Becca not died? Was Samantha a representation of the daughter that Iris lost, or the daughter Iris never was herself?

11. Did you guess that Iris would circumvent Jane and approach Connie with the idea of moving Samantha to New York City to pursue her musical studies? Had you been in Iris’s position, would you have done the same thing?

12. Reread the book’s Prelude and Coda, which describe parts of John and Becca’s wedding before they get into the limousine. What was the author’s intent in opening and closing the novel in this way, do you think? Did this device enhance your reading of Red Hook Road?

13. Were you surprised when Daniel left Iris? Given the depths of their sadness and the state of their marriage at the time Daniel moves out, did you expect Iris would have been less shocked than she was?

14. Talk about Iris’s decision to list Becca by her maiden name on the grave marker, despite Becca’s decision to change her last name to Tetherly after she and John married. What does this decision say about Iris, and her relationship with her late daughter? Do you agree with what she did?

15. Throughout the book we learn about Becca and John through flashbacks and remembrances by some of the book’s characters. Would you have preferred to learn about them first-hand, in real time?

16. What does music represent in Red Hook Road? Is it a source of joy or sorrow? A way to hide, or a means of expression?

17. Did you identify with any of the characters? Which one(s), and why? Do you feel it was necessary to have experienced tragedy in order to appreciate what each of the characters in Red Hook Road goes through as they deal with their losses?

For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center enewsletter, visit http://www.readinggroupcenter.com.

Interviews

About the Writing of RED HOOK ROAD
By Ayelet Waldman

There comes a moment at every literary event, a moment every author dreads, when the lights go up and the Q&A starts. The vast majority of the Q is fine (I can't speak for the A, you'll have to be the judge.). What book am I reading now, when did I first want to become a writer, how do my children feel about the title of my last book. I like those Qs. I like especially the Qs that haven't been asked before, the ones that give me a chance to depart from my practiced answers. I'm not as fond of the Q that begins with some version of, "I hated this book, but not as much as I loathed your last one," but I can handle that. (I find it usually helps to agree with the person and to suggest alternatives. Ian McEwan never disappoints.) The Q I loath and despise, the Q every single writer I know loathes and despises, is this one:

Where, the reader asks, do you get your ideas?

It's a simple question, and my usual response is a kind of helpless, "I don't know." But I do know. I'm just embarrassed to tell you. I get my ideas from you, or from your mother, or from someone else I run across to whom something bizarre or sad has happened, someone whose life is miserable, but in an interesting way. "Write What You Know," goes the old adage, but once you've written about what an unloved geek and freak you were in high school (and every writer I know claims to have been the most unhappy teenager who ever lived. Where were these people when I was sitting alone at the lunch table at George Washington Jr. High, I'd like to know. Couldn't we have been sitting together?), once you've mined the exciting tale of your grandmother/grandfather's immigration to America from Russia/Italy/China/Vietnam, once you've spent an entire novel complaining about how much it sucks to have to wake up in the middle of the night with the baby, then what?

I'll tell you what. Other people's misfortune. That's where we get those ideas that inspire us (and, we hope, you). Most writers spend their lives standing a little apart from the crowd, watching and listening and hoping to catch that tiny hint of despair, that sliver of malice, that makes them think, Aha, here is the story.

My new novel RED HOOK ROAD began many years ago as a short article in the newspaper. A bride and a groom (or was it the groom and the best man?) were killed on their way from the church to the reception, when a speeding car smashed into their limousine. The horror of that happening on that day, at that moment, when you are about to embark on a completely new life, where everything is possible and the future is all that is on your mind…That stuck with me for years. I'd think of it time and again, as anyone would.

A normal person thinks about that tragedy, and maybe gets sad all over again. A writer thinks of it and wonders, "Can I use this?"

Until one day, you can, and you do.

Customer Reviews

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Red Hook Road 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 118 reviews.
Dollycas More than 1 year ago
This story takes place over four summers and features the Copaken/ Kimmelbrods, a well to do Jewish family from Manhattan, who spend their summers on the coast of Maine (Summer People) and the Tetherlys, a working class family that lives in Maine year round. Both families are dominated by the mothers, two very strong willed women, Jane Tetherly and Iris Copaken. These two families have nothing in common except that their children have fallen in love. They are wed and less than an hour later they are both killed in a car accident on their way to their reception. This tragedy rocks both families and they both deal with their grief in very different ways. The first thing the families clash over is the funeral, being Jewish the Copakens need the funeral as soon as possible, Jane Tetherly doesn't even want a combined funeral and must even be convinced to lay their children together in the cemetery. This is not the last time these mothers will butt heads. Over the next 3 summers they will be at odds over a variety of things, including memorials for their children and conflict over Jane's niece, just to name two. This is the point were Iris's father, a world-renowned violin virtuoso, who is no longer able to play but still teach, comes to the forefront of the story and through the love of music tries to bring these families together. This story is so well written it is like a composition by Bach, Mozart or Brahms. I am afraid to give you too many details to the story because you must read it for yourself to achieve the true feelings brought out in this wonderful novel. I was shocked by something that happens the second summer. Waldman tells this story with such a rich tone, you will go through the whole gambit of emotions until the last page. The characters are well developed, the plot very defined, and the illustrations created with her words form detailed pictures in your mind of all the locations. I could definitely see this book made into a movie. I highly recommend this commanding work. It is definitely a must read. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the Doubleday Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Almesa More than 1 year ago
I read this book after visiting Maine, and I could really relate to this book. The story is believable and the attitudes of the characters is consistent with how someone may feel after people move into their town for a few months. I read this on my ereader and finished it in two days. I would buy another book by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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! MY RATING - 4/5 To see my rating scale and other reviews, please check out my blog: http://www.1776books.blogspot.com
Twink on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Ayelet Waldman's book is the story of two families in the town of Red Hook Maine. The Copaken and Tetherly families are about to be united by the marriage of Becca Copaken and John Tetherly. The union is short lived as John and Becca are tragically killed immediately after their wedding in a car accident.Red Hook Road follows the aftermath of this tragedy over the course of four years and the effect on the family and friends left behind.The two mothers - Iris Copaken and Jane Tetherly are the main characters and the ones we come to know the best. Waldman's strength lies in her characterizations. I truly disliked Iris despite her losses. Her sense of right, her scheming and manipulations added up to someone I would not enjoy knowing. Although her actions are not all bad, it is the way she achieves them that I found objectionable. Jane is portrayed a a 'typical' Mainer - stoic, spare with words and hard working. Despite her brusqueness she is the character I enjoyed the most. Supporting characters are just as strongly drawn, particularly Iris's father. The sea, boats and classical music all play a role in the novel and are used by Waldman as allegorical vehicles.Those looking for an action filled story won't find it here. Rather, they will find a thoughtful, carefully portrayed narrative of the feelings, emotions and actions of those left grieving after a heartbreaking loss.
bremmd on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Summary: As lyrical as a sonata, Ayelet Waldman¿s follow-up novel to Love and Other Impossible Pursuits explores the aftermath of a family tragedy.Set on the coast of Maine over the course of four summers, Red Hook Road tells the story of two families, the Tetherlys and the Copakens, and of the ways in which their lives are unraveled and stitched together by misfortune, by good intentions and failure, and by love and calamity.A marriage collapses under the strain of a daughter¿s death; two bereaved siblings find comfort in one another; and an adopted young girl breathes new life into her family with her prodigious talent for the violin. As she writes with obvious affection for these unforgettable characters, Ayelet Waldman skillfully interweaves life¿s finer pleasures¿music and literature¿with the more mundane joys of living. Within these resonant pages, a vase filled with wildflowers or a cold beer on a hot summer day serve as constant reminders that it¿s often the little things that make life so precious. ¿ Random HouseThe devastating premise of this book intrigued me. What happens to families when the young bride and groom are killed on their wedding day? How are you related when you¿ve been in-laws for an hour? The story deals with the aftermath of a horrible car accident and how each family member comes to terms with their loss.I¿ve read all of Aleyet Waldman¿s Mommy Track mysteries and I really enjoyed them. I went into this book wanting to love and sadly I just didn¿t. I liked it well enough but it just didn¿t catch me. I felt like I was missing something. I¿m sure there are going to be plenty of people who love this book unfortunately I found myself pushing to finish it and find out what happened, which I did want.Jane and Iris, the mothers-in-law were well written but I felt there was something missing about them for me. I can¿t quite put my finger on it. It drives me crazy when I can¿t explain why I didn¿t like a book better. I¿m not sure what wasn¿t there for me or what I needed to like it better. Ugh, it¿s just so frustrating.I did like the way Iris and Daniel¿s (parents of the bride) marriage was handled. It seemed a realistic reaction to the death of a child. And though I didn¿t always like Iris, I could understand some of the things she did and felt. I thought Jane (mother of the groom), a seemingly cold person was fleshed out a little better.The secondary story of the flower girl finding her talent for music with the world-famous violinist grandfather of the bride was a bit of a miss for me. Again, I don¿t know why it didn¿t work for me, maybe it was just a little contrived.This is a hard one for me because I really wanted to love this book and I did like it. Maybe my expectations were too high and I was expecting something else. I have a feeling more people are going to love it and wondering what the heck is wrong with me.Update: It just dawned on me, I had a head cold this weekend which I¿m sure played a part in my feelings about this book. I¿m still trying to get over it which is why I¿m sure I didn¿t pick up on it¿s effect on my reaction to this book. Yikes, I may have to do a reread sometime soon.
jcelrod on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Although the tragic premise (a bride and groom are killed in a car accident on their wedding day) was interesting, I found it hard to thoroughly enjoy this book. Iris, the mother of the bride, was generally unlikeable and the story was skewed towards her instead of giving a balanced view that equally included Jane's grief as the mother of the groom. The ending was incredibly unsatisfying and left entirely too much unresolved. I have previously loved Ayelet Waldman's other writings so was a little disappointed not to have loved this book as well.
tututhefirst on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I live in a small town in coastal Maine so I had high expectations of this book and its setting. On the whole, it did not disappoint. Ayelet Waldman has done her homework and presents us with a deeper than surface glimpse into the relationships, economic reality and culture of such a life.The story begins rather slowly. In fact, the only part of the story I found tedious was the beginning. Essentially it boils down to a wedding - the bridal party stays behind to have pictures taken. The wedding guests go off to the Grange Hall for the reception. But the bride and groom never get to the reception because the limo is involved in a fatal accident. This isn't a spoiler - it's the beginning of the story.The story isn't about the bride and groom at all, but rather the story of their families and how this wedding, this romance, and these deaths impact the families--both inside each family, and towards the other family. It is a story of relationships and people. In addition to the native vs. "from away" conflict, there are religious issues (the bride's family is Jewish), there are issues of aging (the bride's grandfather- a world class violinist - is now suffering from Parkinson's), there is marital discord - the bride's parents have drifted apart due to the mother's overbearing need to control everyone and everything and the father's lack of backbone and refusal to stand up to her.There are issues of class- the groom's mother cleans house for the bride's family, but doesn't feel the bride's family is deserving of being seen as 'from here' since they live in New York. There are grieving siblings who are left to fend for themselves emotionally, and who are struggling to find their own lives while trying to live up to their brother's and sister's dreams.The best part of the story surrounds the relationship that develops between Samantha (the flower girl) , a nine year old Cambodian orphan who was adopted by the groom's aunt, and Mr. Kimmelbrod, the grandfather, who discovers Samantha's incredible musical talent and takes her under his wing to mentor and encourage her.Over four summers, we watch as a marriage falls apart, a romance blooms, a musical career blossoms, and the mothers-in-law come to a grudging respect for each others' differences. The ending was almost a made-in-hollywood scene designed to tie up the loose ends and make it come out 'happily ever after.' It could have been more realistic, leaving the characters with some room to grow instead of just being able to walk away from problems. Still in all, it was a great read, and a well done look at generational, class, and religious differences that can fester in a small town atmosphere.
bearette24 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is a saga of sorts, extending over four summers in a summer community in Maine. There is class tension between the locals and the summer residents. But that doesn't prevent love from blossoming between Becca, the daughter of Jewish New Yorkers, and John, a local resident with a high school education. Then, both of them die in a car accident an hour after their wedding.This sounds like a depressing premise, but the novel is actually full of life. It traces Becca's family, the Copakens, and John's family, the Tetherlys, for four years after the accident. We get to know Samantha, the adopted Cambodian flower girl who displays great promise with the violin; Ruthie, Becca's younger sister who develops a romance with John's brother, Matt; and the two very different, but both stubborn, mothers - Iris and Jane.The story was beautifully written and I felt like I knew the characters. Each one was fully developed, particularly Iris, whose flaws and strengths were honestly presented. My only complaint was that the author seemed to have more sympathy for Iris than Jane. Other than that, a wonderful novel...I look forward to reading more by this author.
bachaney on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Red Hook Road opens with a tragedy--a bride and groom killed in a terrible car accident on the way from their ceremony to their reception. The novel then follows their families for the next several years after the accident--focusing in particular on the bride and groom's mothers and on their siblings, all of whom continue to live in the small Maine town of Red Hook. As the accident threatens to tear all of their lives apart, the families search for a way to deal with their pain and continue their lives. As the subject suggests, Red Hook Road is a very deep, heavy, emotional read. There are no real happy times in this novel, instead it is very dark, with lots of destruction of lives and anger in the wake of the family tragedy. Waldman also explores the tension between summer residents and locals in a small Maine vacation town, lending an additional layer of complexity and realism to the story. I enjoyed the way Waldman unfolds the story and really gets into the heads of her characters, but I was dissapointed with how quickly she wraps up their complicated stories. This would be a good summer read for fans of literary fiction.
writestuff on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Set on the coast of Maine, Red Hook Road follows the lives of its characters through four summers after a horrible tragedy. When Becca Copaken (a talented musician whose family summers in Maine) marries John Tetherly (a local boy whose heart lies in boat design and restoring an old wooden sailing vessel), two disparate families are joined. But only an hour after the wedding, both John and Becca lose their lives in a terrible accident, leaving behind parents, siblings, and a wise old grandfather to figure out how to move forward without them.Ayelet Waldman captures the tension between the summer folks ¿from away¿ and the locals who populate the small fishing village of Red Hook, but more importantly, she exposes the raw wound of grief which does not discriminate between socioeconomic and class differences. Waldman¿s writing is intimate and observant. It would be easy with a book about loss for an author to immerse the reader in sadness, and so I was delighted that Waldman chose to show how time heals grief, that there is still room for joy in the midst of sorrow, and strength is ultimately found in our connection to others.My favorite character in this book is Ruthie ¿ Becca¿s younger sister ¿ who struggles to find her identity in the shadow of her sister¿s death. But, all the characters ring true¿Mr. Kimmelbrod, the taciturn grandfather whose serious nature belies a sensitive heart; Jane Tetherly, John¿s matter-of-fact mother who hides her grief with anger; Iris Copaken, Becca¿s mother whose obsessive organization and need for control nearly destroys her marriage; Daniel Copaken, Becca¿s father who finds himself longing for his younger days as a boxer in order to escape the sadness of his daughter¿s death; Matt, John¿s brother, compelled to restore the boat his brother left behind; and Samantha, a young Korean girl who finds her talent in playing the violin. The characters in this novel are rich, well developed and captivating. Their individual journeys to find meaning in their lives after John and Becca¿s deaths were haunting and real.I was surprised how much I liked this book ¿ a book whose plot revolves around grief and loss, but somehow becomes more about living than about death. Waldman writes effortlessly, capturing place and character with ease. Readers who enjoy family sagas will undoubtedly like this novel.Recommended.
khager on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is the story of a tragedy that befalls two families and of four years--summers, really--after that tragedy. It's about death and how you go on after losing someone you love.It's not a cheery book, but it isn't slit-your-wrists depressing, either. It's brilliant and good and I think if I could write a tenth as well as Ayelet Waldman can, I'd be a happy Kelly.
Lila_Gustavus on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Red Hook Road is a wonderful novel. Exactly the type of contemporary American fiction that I appreciate the most. The writing is like a song, flows easily and beautifully, despite the many descriptive passages. There is a lot of them, mostly as insight to people's thoughts in the wake of a terrible tragedy that forces all those affected to be more introspective. Although it's not really mentioned, the closest family of the couple got a 'wake-up' call on how short and unexpected life really is. In face of that fact, how each of them tries to go on is very engaging, especially for someone with a little bit of voyeuristic nature like me.It may all sound boring to some of you, but believe me, Ms. Waldman made sure the novel was anything but. Somehow (I'm sure her talent had something to do with it), Red Hook Road turned out to be fascinating, without a boring passage in there. And even though it's heartbreaking, it's also a story that gives hope which I always appreciate, as there can never be too much hope. (Psst...don't tell, but I think I might even prefer Ms. Waldman's style to her husband's, Michael Chabon).
mythlady on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Though I don't usually read family stories, I found Red Hook Road overall very enjoyable. It's about the aftermath of a tragic incident that brings together two very unlike mothers who are forced to deal with situations together as life goes on. It's touching and for the most part very well written.I've read some criticisms that the two main characters, the mothers, are unlikeable, and while I get that, I found them rich enough characters that even though there were definitely unlikeable things about them, I still felt empathy for them and understood how life had shaped them in those particular ways. Iris, in particular, while extremely irritating in her desire to control anything and everything in her path, was still vulnerable enough and showed enough kindness and love that her negative qualities didn't really bother me.On the downside, the plot is a little contrived, and there's a bit of deus ex machina at the end. But it's well worth a read, if this is the kind of novel you enjoy.
pdebolt on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is an absorbing glimpse into the lives of those who have to go on after an unthinkable tragedy blindsides them. The stages and layers of grief both separate and join those who are left to deal with the aftermath of a devastating loss. Ayelet Waldman writes beautifully and convincingly about the unexpected strengths and fallibilities of human beings in their darkest hours.
tammathau on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A bride and groom are killed in a horrible accident on the way to their reception. The book tells the story of how their families cope with their grief.
SallyBrice on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Ayelet Waldman seems quite concerned with death for someone with such a fortunate life. She's a former attorney, a successful author and the mother of several children with husband prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon. Waldman has written a series of light-hearted murder mysteries with titles like Death Makes a Playdate and Murder Plays House. Her other novels, before this Love and Other Impossible Pursuits and now Red Hook Road, feature death prominently as well. Waldman's strength in this and her other non-mysteries lies in the understanding of character. The ways two middle-aged women face tragedy are so different from one another that we have great insight into their personalities. The same is true for the other family members. The coastal Maine village where the book takes place is so well described it nearly becomes another character. The plot is the novel's shortcoming. It is so contrived that it stretches credulity. I would like to see Waldman write a non-mystery set in a happy family. She wrote a non-fiction essay and book about her emotional reaction to her husband as opposed to her children that generated a storm of controversy. I wonder if Waldman can create enough of the same strong response without death playing a part. I hope she tries.
astults on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This novel is a study of grief and how two people who seem so unlike each other can set aside differences when it comes to the well-being of their children.I follow Ayelet on Twitter where she¿s very much herself ¿ a mom, a writer, a funny woman, Jewish, a wife in love with her husband, and opinionated ¿ these are only a few of the adjectives I¿d use to describe her. These little pieces of herself were put into these characters. The ways in which they cope with their grief are as individual as the characters.I find it difficult to write about Red Hook Road without giving anything away. All I can say is the coda at the end is hauntingly beautiful. It is perfectly placed and it¿s well worth the reader¿s time to get through four summers in Red Hook, Maine to get there.
msjessicamae on LibraryThing 8 months ago
From the first page of this book all the way through the last chapter, I knew how I was planning on starting this review:"If I had to summarize this book in one word it would be 'lovely.'"However, upon reading the "coda" and closing the book, the only thing I had left was a sigh. I could not have guessed how much I truly connected with this story. The writing is, throughout the entire book, lovely. The story is heartbreaking over and over but most of it isn't heartbreaking in a huge event way, it is more like it slowly chips away at your heart throughout the story and yet at the end you are miraculously still left feeling whole.The book begins with a massive tragedy that leaves two families trying to rebuild and repeatedly fighting the connections they have to each other. The most divine moments come when Waldman details activities they take part in. Building a sailboat and playing music can be described so simply but they come to life in a way that makes them relatable in so many ways.I wanted to step into the little Maine town and become a part of the story even with all the tragedy they experienced. The characters were so real. I felt their pain and sadness so fully that the bittersweetness of the end was even sweeter. Truly an incredible book.
CMash on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Red Hook Road Ayelet WaldmanPublished by DoubledayISBN 978-0-385-51786-7At the request of Doubleday, a HC was sent, at no cost to me, for my honest opinion. Synopsis (borrowed by book's jacket): Becca Copaken and John Tetherly are young and in love, and the future looks as bright as the day of their marriage. Becca's family is well-to-do and summers in Red Hook, Maine, where John's mother, Jane, runs a housecleaning service for clients like the Copakens. The only thing that binds the two families is the love the elated couple share but it's enough to bring them together for the occasion. Until the unthinkable happens: Becca and John's limousine collides with another vehicle mere minutes after the wedding, killing them instantly. Joy gives way to grief, and the rifts between Becca's mother, Iris and Jane grow, from the funeral arrangements to Iris's strong.-willed interest in the musical career of Jane's niece to a new romance that buds between the surviving children, Ruthie and Matt. Time's healing powers prove elusive for Iris and Jane: Iris' thirty-year marriage disintegrates, while Jane's bitterness threatens to ruin her relationship with Matt. Only when a powerful, blinding storm hits Red Hook do the families begin to see what really matters most. My Thoughts and Opinion: Days before reading this book, we had attended a wedding, that was a beautiful and fun celebration, so parts of the story were easy to relate to. Thankfully there was a different outcome in the real life wedding. I was able to feel the emotions and gaiety of Becca and John's wedding day through the author's written words. And then the shock, disbelief, and despair when the news is announced to the family and friends, that are waiting for the newlyweds at the reception. From that point on, my thoughts of the book fluctuated. There was a lot of genealogy of the families', which I felt was important to understand the dynamics of the characters involved. But at times, and this is my opinion only, there was too much information that it became boring and took away from the story. The novel was a serious,somber and depressing read but at the same time the families' dynamics were so profound that I needed to continue reading. Not only were there difference in classes, as described in the synopsis, but also religions and beliefs of the families' that also divided them. Ms. Waldman's writing style and descriptive wording allowed me to feel the emotions that each character was feeling and how they dealt with their very individual way of grieving and how that grief affected their lives. This is not the type of book if you are looking for a fast paced or uplifting read, but a book to be read if you want a thought provoking and the need to understand family dynamics and individual differences. Filled with many life's metaphors. My Rating: 3
SarahNYI on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I found this book very hard to get into. It starts off so tragic that it is hard to continue reading but I advise you to stick it out because once you get passed the extremely sad beginning it picks up and becomes quite a good story. I'm happy I stuck with it.
zibilee on LibraryThing 8 months ago
The Tetherleys and the Copakens are two families living on the coast of Maine who are about to be joined forever by the marriage of their two oldest children, Becca and John. After a beautiful if tense wedding, a horrible car accident on the way to the reception leaves both Becca and John dead. As the two families struggle with their shared grief, the gulf widens between them. Iris Copaken and Jane Tetherley, both mothers who have lost their children, find themselves in an awkward and uncomfortable dance of a relationship, with Iris dictating the steps to an increasingly wary and hostile Jane. Meanwhile, the two younger siblings of the lost couple begin a relationship that strangely mirrors the one between the deceased couple. As the tale winds itself around four summers, the two families begin to see that the bond that was forged with Becca and John's wedding will not be easily broken. Both tender and at times sorrowful, Red Hook Road gives a peek into the lives of two very different families bound together by tragedy.This is my first book by Ayelet Waldman, though I've heard good things about her work. I think the thing that struck me the most about this book was the way Waldman encapsulates the tender and ever-changing relationship between a mother and her children. Though there are many other types of relationships portrayed in this book, these mother-to-child relationships seemed to be the glue that held the story together and really placed the framework for the rest of the tale. I was surprised to find such a complete and genuine examination of the subject in the book, mostly, I think, because I had been expecting something a little different.One of the things I liked about this book was the fact that although the two female protagonists were not all that likable, I was able to feel a lot of sympathy and understanding for them. It's rare to find a character that you don't like but can completely understand. For the most part, I thought Iris was domineering and controlling, and her actions spoke loudly of her need to organize and dominate everyone else's lives. It happened time and time again that Iris would assert herself in ways that totally took the decision-making power our of another person's hands. This was true of all of her relationships and I considered the possibility that Iris was really trying to live through people instead of letting them make their own choices and mistakes. I wasn't really fond of her but I did feel like I could relate to her in some ways and I also felt that not all of her actions were completely selfish. Jane, on the other hand, was more of a cold fish and she wasn't a nice person. Most of the time the reader is in her head, she is complaining and bitter. I got the impression that she felt that her future had been compromised by her past and that she was a little smug and condescending about the people who surrounded her. She was not a person who I liked spending time with but I did feel like she almost had a right to be bitter about her life and situation. She was very human and it felt very real to be in her head. Both of these women just felt right somehow. They felt like real people, with warts and flaws in all the right places.The relationship between the two families was really more about the relationship between Iris and Jane than anything else. Iris was constantly trying to exert control over Jane, with Jane attempting to back away and over time developing a palpable undercurrent of anger and a strange sort of detachment towards her rival. When the two women come to see that they need each other and that this relationship would persist in spite of all that is expected, they slowly begin to reassess and move towards some closure. It was an interesting relationship between two very different women, one fraught with false politeness and misunderstanding. This relationship gave a really nice texture and gravitas to the story, and felt very organic.The book shares the narrative between
Nicnac63 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A young couple, Becca Copaken and John Tetherly are married for only an hour before their young lives are cut short in a horrible tragedy, yet their families are intricately bound together forever¿whether they like it or not. Red Hook Road is filled with tension, pain, and tenderness. The characters are well developed, and the descriptions of Blue Hill, Maine are so vivid, I feel as though I¿ve been there. This story, and its exceptional characters, will stay with me for sometime. Especially Becca¿s grandfather, Mr. Kimmelbroad. (Reminiscent of Richard Gilmore on the TV Show Gilmore Girls.)Pros: This story is meaningful, stirring, and lasting. The characters are real and memorable. Cons: The first two chapters are very slow.Overall: I highly recommend reading this book. It pains me to give this book four (4.5) stars, rather than five. The ONLY reason for not giving it the highest rating is I found the beginning very slow. I almost put the book away without finishing it, but I¿m glad I continued. Once I reached the third chapter I was hooked! If the story started at chapter three, and the back-story was dispersed later throughout the story, I wouldn¿t have hesitated to give it the highest rating.Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from LibraryThing¿s First Reads. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission¿s 16 CFR, Part 255 : ¿Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.¿
oldblack on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Most reviewers on LibraryThing seem to say that this book is well worth reading but you need to put up with the very slow beginning to get to the better part of the story. In contradistinction, I regard the first 80 - 90% of the book to be really excellent reading, with the last 10% degenerating to become almost romantic. I think Waldman excels at observing and describing the subtle interactions between people, especially family members. She paints pictures of real people and focuses on behaviours that we know are real but which might often be not addressed in the real world: the early signs of the break-up of a marriage relationship; the differences in the way a father and mother relate to their children; the way the behaviour of the oldest of siblings can influence the younger ones. This works in the way a good photograph can make you see an everyday sight with new clarity. Although all this may not make "exciting" reading to many readers, to me it's very engaging.
Iudita on LibraryThing 8 months ago
There is quite a nice story in here for those that have the patience to make their way through the whole book.I found it very slow and bogged down with tons of detail. I was listening to the audio version of this which carried me through but if I had been reading the book I don't think I would have finished it.
Kbhamny on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Slow going at first, but patience pays off. Once the book starts hopping it is hard to put down. Some speed bumps on the way, but overall a wonderful exploration on family, grief, and finding your way back after a horrific tragedy.