Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine: 10/04/10
In an interview on Suite 101, Ann Hood describes writing her debut novel, Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine long hand during long flights. She was working at the time as a flight attendant. Knowing the circumstances of how the book explains for me the dominant theme of the book: the resurfacing of memories, good and bad in a time of personal reflection.
The novel begins with Sparrow, a teenager, wanting to know about her father. To her, he is only a man in faded photograph. She wants to meet him. She wants to get away from home, from her mother who has decided to start calling her Susan. Sparrow's not the only teen in this book looking for something. There are others, all of them children of women who went to college together in the 1960s.
The book then goes back in time to the mothers to tell their stories. At first I was reluctant to continue, afraid that the book would lose its meditative tone in lieu of nostalgia. Thankfully it doesn't. These moments in the pass are fleeting, the years jumping from memory to memory.
Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine can be read either a chapter a night or in one long sitting. The chapters stand apart, working almost as self contained short stories. Together though they do build a portrait of friendship, memories, loss and grief over twenty five year's time.