Several months ago I bought Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman after reading a review of it in the New York Times. I loved the premise of the book: what happens to families when what should be the happiest day of their lives quickly devolves into tragedy. Not the most uplifting of premises, but sometimes I am a sucker for stories that start out in the quicksand of grief. I like experiencing how the characters take themselves through the process. I like seeing how each person’s reactions differ.
For some reason, it took me forever to start reading Red Hook Road. I am not sure why. I was looking forward to reading it and then somehow I was distracted. The book simply waited for me to get my act together and rediscover it. Happily, I have and I am enchanted.
Red Hook Road starts with a wedding in Maine. Becca Copacken and John Tetherly’s families are waiting for them to arrive for their reception. The families have known each other for years–Becca’s family belongs to “the summer people” in the minds of the locals of Red Hook, Maine though their lineage is entwined with the town’s history. John’s family lives in Red Hook all year cleaning houses and caretaking summer residences during the winter season. As the hours go by and the bridal couple still haven’t arrived, restlessness settles over the guests. When news arrives that the couple has been killed in a freak car accident, the families must somehow pick up the pieces and come to terms with their loss.
Over the course of four summers, we follow the Copackens and the Tetherlys as they struggle to accept the loss of Becca and John. We watch a marriage unravel, we see how Ruthie, Becca’s younger sister, tries to work through her longing for the sister she both adored and envied. she finds herself drawn to Matt, John’s younger brother, who has dropped out of UMass-Amherst to finish rebuilding John and Becca’s boat. Meanwhile, Mr. Kimmelbrod, Ruthie and Becca’s grandfather, begins a special friendship with Samantha, Matt’s adopted cousin from Cambodia who is a musical prodigy.
The language in Red Hook Road is devastatingly beautiful. Some passages have that cinematic feel that instantly transports you to this coastal village in Maine with such ease that you lose yourself. And I love when that happens. I love losing myself in a book and its characters. So don’t let the tragic beginning of Red Hook Road put you off. I urge you to discover this book and let it carry you along the backroads of Maine and into the lives of the Copackens and the Tetherlys. I don’t think you’ll regret it.
I know I didn’t.