Everyone has dark secrets. It’s why God invented confession and booze, two balms frequently employed in Sullivan’s well-wrought sophomore effort.
Alice Brennan is Irish American through and through, the daughter of a cop, a good Catholic girl so outwardly pure that she’s a candidate for the papacy. But Alice, more than that, is an Irish rose, “one of the most special young women out there, just waiting for someone to take notice.” When Sullivan (Commencement, 2009) introduces her, someone has taken notice, and decades have rolled by, and Alice Kelleher is now reflecting on 60 years of life at a beachside cottage that her husband won at gambling. She spends her days drinking red wine, reading, “watching the waves crash against the rocks until it was time to make supper,” and avoiding her children’s pointed demands that she not drink so much—and especially that she not drive once she’d had a few belts. As Sullivan’s tale unfolds, there are plenty of reasons that Alice might wish to avoid taking too close a look at her life: There’s tragedy and heartbreak around every corner, as there is in every life. So it is with the intertwined tales of her daughter and granddaughter, who are more modern creatures, all bound up in confessional groups of their own, yoga, homeopathy and all the other stuff of the contemporary examined life. Sullivan spins a leisurely yarn that looks into why people do the things they do—particularly when it comes to drinking and churchgoing—and why the best-laid plans are always the ones the devil monkeys with the most thoroughly. The story will be particularly meaningful to Catholic women, though there are no barriers to entry for those who are not of that faith.
Mature, thoughtful, even meditative at times—but also quite entertaining.