Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman

In Red Hook Road, it's Becca and John's wedding day. What should have been a day full of celebration is cut short by a tragic accident just minutes after the ceremony. Both Becca and John are killed in a car accident. Their families and friends are understandably devastated. As the families return to Red Hook Road for the next few summers, they discover that time doesn't necessarily heal all wounds. As they struggle to go on, they manage to find solace in ways they can't imagine.

I adored this book. The story was so beautifully written and well conceived. The characters felt real and elicited lots of sympathy from me. I just can't imagine living through a tragedy like this one. I loved that Waldman wove topics like literature and music in with the characters' daily lives. I especially loved the interaction between Samantha and Mr. Kimmelbrod, when he was teaching her to play the violin. I could almost hear her playing. As for the other characters, I love them all, even those who were hard to like at first.

Even though the book was filled with tragedy and grief and exhibited an overall feeling of sadness, it's not one that moved me to tears. The story wasn't really about the couple or the accident itself, but rather about the aftermath and the family members who are left behind to pick up the pieces and carry on. I certainly had sympathy for these characters as they dealt with their anguish. While their ordeal was tragic, there were some ultimately uplifting qualities to the story. I loved reading about the different ways that the characters dealt with grief and each other. It made me realize that despite blinding sadness people can survive, even triumph, over adversity.

I've read lots of books with preludes or prologues, but I believe this is the first book I've read with a coda. In fact, when I got to the last few pages of the story it surprised me, in a good way. I can't imagine a better way to end the book.

This book contained quite a few words that were new to me. Here's a sampling:
simulacrum (page 19): representation or image of something
machetunim (page 22): in-laws (Yiddish)
carapace (page 58): covering
intransigence (page 108): inflexibility
senescence (page 131): aging; growing old
nascent (page 190): promising
maladroit (page 192): awkward
epigrammatic (page 226): concise
peripatetic (page 227): travelling; drifting
turgid (page 229): pompous, dull
cascadura (page 286): type of fish

Highly recommended. I'd love to read another book by this author. I'm a little miffed at myself for allowing this book to linger on my bookshelf for some time. Had I known I was going to love it this much, I would have read it the second I opened the package. It's definitely going to end up on my Best of 2011 book list at the end of the year.

For more information about this book, please visit the Random House website.

For more information about the author, please visit Ayelet Waldman's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Random House for this review copy.

Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman, Doubleday (Random House), ©2011. ISBN 9780385517867(Hardcover), 343p.

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