Friday, October 14, 2011
Red Hook Road, Ayelet Waldman
Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman (Doubleday, 2010)
The day couldn't have been more perfect: a young, beautiful, blissfully happy bride and her handsome, adoring groom, just married in a picture-perfect, traditional New England seaside village... when tragedy strikes: the newlyweds are killed in a freak automobile accident on their way to their own wedding reception. Red Hook Road is the story of the two, very different families they have left behind, how they grieve, and how they move forward.
The plot was somewhat predictable, but it was predictable in a way that was both moving and ultimately comforting - it took the reader right into the heart-wrenching thick of the tragedy, but gently and surely led her back out to hope and safety. I thought the greatest strength of Red Hook Road was the warm and compassionate way in which Waldman explores the story from the points of view of all the characters, capturing their unique histories, personalities, and complicated relationships. The tense relationship between Iris and Jane, the bride's and groom's mothers, may be central to the novel, but I have to confess that my favorite parts were about (or told from the point of view of) other characters, especially Daniel, the bride's father, and Emil Kimmelbrod, the bride's grandfather. Their narratives were the most unexpected, and thus the most interesting to me.
Ms. Waldman is the author of several other bestselling books, perhaps best known for "Bad Mother, A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace." She is currently co-editing a new (non-profit) book, Voice of Witness, as part of the Women in Prison project: Voice of Witness is "a collection of oral histories from imprisoned and formerly imprisoned women across the U.S. who have suffered violations of their basic human rights." Given the author's passion for issues she cares deeply about, I have no doubt it will be an eye-opening and very powerful collection.
You can order Voice of Witness from McSweeneys.
Red Hook Road was borrowed from my local library.