Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan


20 Critic Reviews

Mature, thoughtful, even meditative at times—but also quite entertaining.


In her best-selling debut, Commencement, J. Courtney Sullivan explored the complicated and contradictory landscape of female friendship. Now, in her highly anticipated second novel, Sullivan takes us into even richer territory, introducing four unforgettable women who have nothing in common but the fact that, like it or not, they’re family.

For the Kellehers, Maine is a place where children run in packs, showers are taken outdoors, and old Irish songs are sung around a piano. Their beachfront property, won on a barroom bet after the war, sits on three acres of sand and pine nestled between stretches of rocky coast, with one tree bearing the initials “A.H.” At the cottage, built by Kelleher hands, cocktail hour follows morning mass, nosy grandchildren snoop in drawers, and decades-old grudges simmer beneath the surface.

As three generations of Kelleher women descend on the property one summer, each brings her own hopes and fears. Maggie is thirty-two and pregnant, waiting for the perfect moment to tell her imperfect boyfriend the news; Ann Marie, a Kelleher by marriage, is channeling her domestic frustration into a dollhouse obsession and an ill-advised crush; Kathleen, the black sheep, never wanted to set foot in the cottage again; and Alice, the matriarch at the center of it all, would trade every floorboard for a chance to undo the events of one night, long ago.

By turns wickedly funny and achingly sad, Maine unveils the sibling rivalry, alcoholism, social climbing, and Catholic guilt at the center of one family, along with the abiding, often irrational love that keeps them coming back, every summer, to Maine and to each other.

From the Hardcover edition.

About J. Courtney Sullivan

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J. Courtney Sullivan's work has appeared in The New York Times, New York, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Allure, Men's Vogue, the New York Observer, Tango, and in the essay anthology The Secret Currency of Love. She is a graduate of Smith College, lives in Brooklyn, and works in the editorial department of The New York Times. Commencement is her first novel.
Published June 14, 2011 by Vintage. 530 pages
Genres: Other, Literature & Fiction, Humor & Entertainment. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
Peak Rank on Jul 24 2011
Weeks as Bestseller
Bookmark Counts:
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Critic reviews for Maine
All: 20 | Positive: 19 | Negative: 1


Reviewed by Kirkus Reviews on Apr 15 2011

Mature, thoughtful, even meditative at times—but also quite entertaining.

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NY Times

Reviewed by LILY KING on Jun 10 2011

“Maine,” conversely, starts slowly, but once it gets going, it does not falter.

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The Washington Post

Reviewed by Howard Frank Mosher on Jun 20 2011

I enjoyed every page of this ruthless and tender novel about the way love can sometimes redeem even the most contentious families.

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The Bookbag

Reviewed by Sue Magee on Jan 04 2012

So, great characters. There's a great sense of place too. I swear that there were times when I could smell the sea and feel its chill, even in the middle of summer.

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USA Today

Reviewed by Elysa Gardner on Jun 23 2011

By the time Sullivan finishes the lovely, bittersweet final chapter, you're spent but contented — ready to leave the beach, but with fond memories of the experience.

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Oregon Live

Reviewed by Christine Selk on Jun 25 2011

But the dialogue is witty, the clip is brisk and the atmosphere is spot-on.

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New Zealand Woman's Weekly

Reviewed by New Zealand Woman's Weekly on Mar 02 2012

Her characters are three-dimensional and authentic...This novel is by no means a typical page-turner but manages to be riveting because the characters are so easy to relate to.

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Marie Claire

Reviewed by Ashley Ross on Jun 08 2011

The cast of quirky characters will have you laughing out loud and aching for their regrets in the same chapter, pining for more pages when it comes to an end.

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Jenn's Bookshelves

Reviewed by Jenn on Jul 21 2011

What really drew me to this book is the fact the author touches on topics faced by many families: unwed mothers, alcoholism, depression. She does it in an honest way, nothing is shielded or guarded.

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Beth Fish Reads

Reviewed by Beth on Jul 11 2011

Through the alternating voices of these four women, Sullivan explores several other large issues, especially how the importance of the Church changed for women over time.

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Book'd Out

Below average
Reviewed by Shelleyrae on Jan 27 2012

There really isn’t much of a plot to this novel and in the end, for me, I was left vaguely unsatisfied.

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Pretty Books

Reviewed by Stacey on Aug 10 2011

It’s exciting watching four women grow up and explore their identity as individuals as well as who they are as part of a large Irish Catholic family.

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Medieval Bookworm

Reviewed by Meghan on Oct 13 2011

What I appreciated most about this book was the perspective each woman had about the others. As in real life, we never know all the details of someone else’s life, not even those who are closest to us.

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Reeder Reads

Reviewed by Reeder Reads on Jun 28 2011 a witty, fictional novel filled with four women that are anything but one-dimensional.

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Early Nerd Special

Reviewed by Clementine Bojangles on Dec 22 2011

...Sullivan manages to craft a novel that is thoughtful and often meditative. It is also really, really entertaining.

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Mrs. Q Book Addict

Reviewed by Jennifer on Aug 09 2011

I loved the colorful characters, from the war-torn years to the present the Kelleher family is unique and real.

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The Book Lady's Blog

Reviewed by Rebecca Joines Schinsky, on Jun 14 2011

This is an emotionally rich examination of family and the landscape of relationships that readers male and female alike will find applicable and appealing.

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Tutu's Two Cents

Reviewed by Tina on Jul 16 2011

It's a dazzling, bold, deeply involved novel in which the characters are well drawn, the individual stories and secrets crawl to a rather transparent (to the reader anyway) conclusion.

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One Literature Nut

Reviewed by Becky on Nov 29 2011

The amount of misunderstanding and miscommunication because of our own issues that filter what we see could fill millions of pages. I found that to be a great, poignant reminder of our misjudgments.

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Boston Book Bums

Reviewed by Boston Book Bums on Jun 14 2011

If you are looking for a book that screams SUMMER but is also worth the extra weight in your beach bag, Maine might be the perfect fit.

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Crystal Greer 5 Sep 2013

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Luana Mitten 5 Sep 2013

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