Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine
Ann Hood
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Buy *Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine* by Ann Hood online

Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine
Ann Hood
W.W. Norton
240 pages
May 2008
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Past and future collide in this reissue of Hood’s debut novel. Three friends, beneficiaries of the ‘60s revolution, face the unpredictable conflicts of their growing children in the mid-‘80s. Throwing themselves into the counterculture of the 1960’s East Coast (Maine and Massachusetts), Suzanne, Elizabeth and Claudia believe they are changing the script for their children, honoring the earth’s bounty in lifestyle choices, hoping to make the world a better place for future generations.

By the mid-‘80s, Suzanne has long been a single mother, successful in her own right and seriously considering marriage to a respectable man of means. Unfortunately, teenaged Sparrow is engaged in the predictable mother vs. daughter contretemps that breeds friction at every turn. Sparrow is obsessed with Abel, the handsome father she has never known and yearns for constantly. Clinging to the past, Sparrow is unwilling to gracefully accept her mother’s decision to move ahead.

Elizabeth grapples with a more immediate issue, recently diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of cancer, her days suddenly uncertain and fragile. Long content in the flourishing family pottery business, until now Elizabeth and Howard’s most difficult task has been shepherding their angst-riddled teenaged daughter, Rebekah, through a painful period, the girl plagued by the cruel remarks of her fellow classmates.

Rebekah is searching for the elusive fix, unaware that her mother is contemplating a dire fate, the teen’s only friend Henry, a young man she has known since childhood. Henry loves Rebekah, although she remains oblivious, trapped in the particular loneliness of unpopularity.

Henry’s family has also been burdened with tragedy, the death of his eldest brother in childhood completely unhinging his mother, Claudia. She drifts from past to present, unable to accept a world without Simon.

Their college years filled with hope and promise, these 1960’s flower children have attempted to pass their hard-won experiences to their children. Not surprisingly, the teenagers want to blaze their own trails, resisting the archaic simplicity of their parent’s naiveté, breaking away as teenagers do, much to their parent’s consternation.

A few chapters dedicated to the innocent 60s fail to inspire, the ‘80s more in tune with reality and the demands of daily life. Written less with an eye to nostalgia as might be expected in such a novel, Hood leans toward reflection, revealing a penchant for the intricacies of human behavior, delving into the generational complications, disappointments and the bonds of love that tie parent to child.

Her protagonists interact as the years pass, each personally challenged as they release their children, giving the best direction they are capable of, hoping their sons and daughters will remember them fondly as they learn to fly on their own.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2008

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