Saturday, August 22, 2009

That Old Cape Magic

Inheritance. Wisdom about family relationships is planted amid the laughter throughout Richard Russo’s new novel, That Old Cape Magic. Structured as a year in the life of 57-year-old protagonist Jack Griffin, the novel begins as Griffin drives to Cape Cod for a wedding, with the year-old ashes of his deceased father in the trunk of his car. His plan is to spread those ashes on the Cape, where he and his college professor parents spent every summer in a different rental house. Memories of those summers overtake Griffin, and his unhappiness leads to a separation from his wife. After his mother dies, he continues to hear her acerbic comments, and also carries her ashes to be scattered on the Cape. All the family dynamics come together with the wedding of Griffin’s daughter in Maine. Separation from parents can be healthy or troubled, and when we observe ourselves behaving like our parents, that can be something that makes us feel miserable or happy. All of that appears on the pages of this finely written novel. The wisdom comes through gently, as in this quote from page 248, “Late middle age, he was coming to understand, was a time of life when everything was predictable and yet somehow you failed to see any of it coming.” Sometimes what we inherit from our parents can be priceless. That Old Cape Magic opens the door to memories of family vacations and relationships that may bring joy and nostalgia to most readers. Russo’s fine writing makes reading this novel a real pleasure.

Rating: Four-star (Highly Recommended)

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