Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman – Book Review

Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman
Published by Doubleday, an imprint of Random House

Becca and John’s wedding is a gorgeous and happy event despite everything that goes wrong, like the flower girl losing her basket before pictures, Becca’s father wearing sneakers because he packed two left dress shoes, and the fact that their mothers don’t really get along well. When the group pictures are finished, Becca and John stay behind for more pictures while the rest of the wedding party and guests move on to the reception. Everyone begins to get antsy when the bride and groom take an inordinately long time to arrive, until it finally becomes clear that tragedy has struck what should have been such a happy day, and both families will have to figure out a way to live with their grief.

I’m not sure there is a single thing I would change about “Red Hook Road,” it just captivated me and held me rapt, letting me experiencing the grief and anger of Becca and John’s without putting me so deep into their emotions that I couldn’t bear to pick up the book.

The prelude of the book was perfectly done. Waldman described the wedding in impersonal terms: the bride, the groom, the flower girl, letting the reader watch what was unfolding without yet being sure who these characters were and how they would play into the story. It was very well done, and I think a good decision since the bride and groom were obviously very central characters in the wedding, but in the rest of the book served as more of catalysts for emotion and action than as actual characters.

It would have been easy for a novel about four summers of grief and attempts at healing to seem drawn out and perhaps even obnoxious. Not so with “Red Hook Road.” Waldman’s characters continued to evolve and deal with their pain in different ways, even as they clung to the memories of their lost family members, and even as their loss exacerbated other problems in their lives.

Waldman hit every note perfectly with “Red Hook Road.” After reading it I feel the need to read her previous novels as soon as possible. Very highly recommended.

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