Red Hook Road, By Ayelet Waldman
Red Hook Road
Two Roads Books
Red Hook Road opens with a summer wedding in a Maine fishing village. Beccy, the daughter of wealthy Jewish summer visitors, is marrying John, whose mother is a local cleaner. En route to their reception, shockingly, the bride and groom are killed in a road accident. Waldman’s portrait of two grieving families – in particular two mammies, whose awkwardness with each other is compounded by the task of putting themselves back together – is sensitive and sassy, with a finely tuned mix of empathy and bristling observation. But as the story revisits Red Hook for four consecutive summers after the disaster, its initial edginess is gradually subsumed in a rising tide of smugness, stereotypes and sentimentality. The siblings fall in love. The mammies snipe and snarl. The adopted Cambodian bridesmaid turns out – of course she does – to be a violin prodigy. The result is half, or perhaps three-quarters, of a rather good novel. Shame about the ending, which is Happy Every After on steroids. With whipped cream on top.