The Coast of Akron
Adrienne Miller
book reviews:
· general fiction
· chick lit/romance
· sci-fi/fantasy
· graphic novels
· nonfiction
· audio books

Click here for the RSS Feed

· author interviews
· children's books @
· DVD reviews @

win books
buy online


for authors
& publishers

for reviewers

click here to learn more

Buy *The Coast of Akron*

The Coast of Akron

Adrienne Miller
400 pages
May 2006
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars
previous reviewnext review

What would literature be without dysfunctional families? Troubled, bickering, dissatisfied family units are a staple of fiction and nonfiction alike. Adrienne Miller’s debut novel, The Coast of Akron, showcases yet another unhappy clan: the Havens of Akron. They consist of troubled artists Lowell and Jenny Haven, their unhappy adult daughter, Merit ,and Lowell’s miserable lover, Fergus.

Yet for all its palpable misery and dysfunction, Miller’s book seldom seems forced or even depressing. Instead, Coast is smart, funny and readable. It shifts viewpoints, depending on the chapter, from Fergus to Merit to Jenny. Through their eyes, we see the saga of the Havens. Jenny, an idealistic young painter, takes up with charming, dramatic, sexually ambiguous artist Lowell. They marry, have a child, and then move in with Jenny’s childhood best friend, Fergus.

Of course, Lowell and Jenny share a secret. Of course, the family unit splits apart. Of course, Merit grows up into an adulterous, dissatisfied woman. The book’s narrative jumps between the past and present, telling how these people found, then rejected, each other. Yes, the set-up is familiar, but Miller’s gift is in the details. For instance, Merit – an animal lover and vegetarian – lies about being a veterinarian to intimidate a pet shop owner into providing better conditions for the animals in his store. Her flustered reaction when the lie is discovered is both funny and painful. And her humiliation-laced affair with her assistant and how it causes Merit to make a lot of dumb mistakes that someone in her position might actually make, lets her seem like a real person, not a collection of neuroses, which many characters in dysfunctional-family stories are often reduced to. Fergus is also real, with his insecurities, eccentricities and annoying ticks. It makes sense that the people in his life alternate between loving him and pushing him away.

The problem with Coast is that Miller paints her dysfunctional family into a corner. There’s a lot of build-up to the final sequence involving a party at Lowell and Fergus’s house, but the payoff doesn’t really seem strong enough. Yet that’s a relatively minor quibble. Coast is never less than compelling, and its characters, particularly Fergus and Merit, are a perverse joy to send time with.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Amanda Cuda, 2005

buy *Darwin's Wink* online
click here for more info
Click here to learn more about this month's sponsor!

fiction · sf/f · comic books · nonfiction · audio
newsletter · free book contest · buy books online
review index · links · · authors & publishers

site by ELBO Computing Resources, Inc.