That Old Cape Magic (Russo)

That Old Cape Magic 
Richard Russo, 2009
Knopf Doubleday
272 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781400030910

Following Bridge of Sighs, Richard Russo gives us the story of a marriage, and of all the other ties that bind, from parents and in-laws to children and the promises of youth.

Griffin has been tooling around for nearly a year with his father's ashes in the trunk of his car, but his mother is very much alive and not shy about calling him on his cell phone.

She does so as he drives down to Cape Cod, where he and his wife, Joy, will celebrate the marriage of their daughter Laura's best friend. For Griffin this is akin to driving into the past, since he took his childhood summer vacations here, his parents' respite from the hated Midwest.

And the Cape is where he and Joy honeymooned, in the course of which they drafted the Great Truro Accord, a plan for their lives together that's now thirty years old and has largely come true. He'd left screenwriting and Los Angeles behind for the sort of New England college his snobby academic parents had always aspired to in vain, they'd moved into an old house full of character, and they'd started a family. Check, check, and check.

But be careful what you pray for—especially if you manage to achieve it. By the end of this perfectly lovely weekend, the past has so thoroughly swamped the present that the future suddenly hangs in the balance. And when, a year later, a far more important wedding takes place, that of their beloved Laura, on the coast of Maine, Griffin is chauffeuring two urns of ashes as he contends once more with Joy and her large unruly family, and both he and she have brought dates along. How in the world could this have happened?

That Old Cape Magic is a novel of deep introspection and every family feeling imaginable, with a middle-aged man confronting his parents and their failed marriage, his own troubled one, his daughter's new life, and, finally, what it was he thought he wanted and what in fact he has.

The storytelling is flawless throughout, scenes of great comedy, even hilarity, alternating with moments of understanding and heart-stopping sadness, and the ending is at once surprising, uplifting, and unlike anything this Pulitzer Prize winner has ever written. (From the publisher.)

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