by Sarah Moriarty
Reads like a creative writing assignment
This novel is chock full of beautiful language and imagery, but there’s also so much angst and unhappiness that it feels forced. It feels as if a college student with decent writing skills was asked to encapsulate all the misery possible in a person’s life and shove it into one story.
There is crude language, so we’ll know things are realistic, various couples groping each other realistically, questioning each other, questioning their love for each other, questioning their relationships with all of the above, all while cursing, groping, and agonizing appropriately. The topics cover everything from marital fidelity, gender identification, abortion, children who hate their parents, parents who neglect their children, marriage partners who hate each other, the problem of water leaks and the lack of maintenance in old buildings, etc. (Yes, I realize that’s a metaphor for all that other stuff… More angst.)
It’s all just too much. The author should have chosen a few topics to angst about, not every fear common to the human condition. The author could have reined in the beautiful imagery and writing. It seemed such a juxtaposition to have so much lyrical writing interspersed with the f* word and the crude thoughts. I suppose the author wrote that way for the shock value, and yet at the end, it’s all so dreary and “shocking” that it actually isn’t shocking, it’s just dreary. I gave up reading partway through and jumped to the end.
I wanted to feel about this book as I felt about the Prince of Tides, but it just didn’t work for me. Usually I can read through to the end when the writing is good. But this book is not about logic, mystery, or even romance. It’s really about not much of anything except unhappy people thinking unhappy thoughts. If you like bitter, depressing, angsty books that have forced angsty revelations, this one’s for you.
Edited to add: The F word is used 45 times. The S word is used 17 times. Worse was how those words were used. Vulgar phrases like “he’d find a new place to F her,” “wanted to F her in broad daylight in a public place,” and “if he tied her up and Fed her A and devoured her body, forced her to do all the things he wanted…”
More classy examples: “… the mighty C that was the fountain of burning, itchy, and all things rashy, “like guilty teenagers bare-A-ed behind the bleachers …There is other crude language, but those are two examples that I could think of off the top of my head that were easily searchable. There is groping as well as incredibly vulgar thought and speech.
On an island in Maine, four siblings arrive at their sprawling, old summer place for the Fourth of July. It’s the Willoughbys’ first summer without their parents, and their beloved house is falling apart. When a substantial offer is made on the estate, the two brothers and two sisters are forced to confront issues they had hoped to keep hidden.
An homage to the layers and limits of the family bond, North Haven explores the shifting allegiances between siblings as they contend with their inheritance, the truth of family lore, and even the veracity of their own memories. This lyrical and moving novel delves into the secret world that exists between parents, one their children don’t fully understand, much as they may think they do.