written by Richard Russo
Fourth Tuesday Mystery and Book Club Review
This book is a story of flawed marriages and weird relationships. It is about a middle-aged man who has a difficult time dealing with reality. He cannot let go of the past and grow up. Jack Griffin has been carrying his father’s ashes in the trunk of his car, afraid to give them up. His mother is constantly calling him and is driving down to meet Griffin and his wife, Joy, to attend a wedding at Cape Cod. His family went on vacation here as he was growing up. They would sing Frank Sinatra’s song “That Old Black Magic” but would change the words to “That Old Cape Magic,” which explains the title of the novel. This is also where the Jack and Joy honeymooned thirty years ago, and set up a plan for their lives, which they followed to the “T.” This is now where Griffin reassesses his life and marriage. He does not want to become his parents. A year later, Jack and Joy attend another wedding—their daughter’s—but this time, they bring dates along. How could all of this have happened?
The novel is a story of deep introspection. Griffin has to confront his parents, their irresponsibility, their failed marriage, his own troubled marriage, his wife’s family, his daughter’s marriage, and what his own life is all about. The story is spread over a period of one year, but there are continual flashbacks to earlier periods in Griffin’s life that help him during the soul-searching that he undergoes.
There are moments of great comedy mixed with moments of great sadness. The ending is surprising and uplifting. This novel received a broad range of response, from those who could not even finish the book to those who liked it. The author is considered an outstanding writer who has received numerous honors and awards. Our club feels that this might indicate his other books are better than this one. It is not recommended.
Key Ideas from different club members:
Very sad; Hard to read at times; Difficult to get the story line; Bounced around too much; Too focused on the psychological aspects; Not as good as the cover says; Took awhile to finish; I wasn’t really enthused about it; It got better toward the end; Sweet version of “Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolfe?”
The Club Members rating this book:
Pat Gombita, Pat Kuna, Mona Herell, LeeAnn Schrock, Helen Skalski, Julie Shultz, Juanita Sanner, Linda Troll, Barbard Swanson, RaeAnn Weaver, Deb Stewart (and William Simmons)
Club’s Average Rating: 2.9 of 5 Rating Range: 1 to 5