That Old Cape Magic: Book summary and reviews of That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo

That Old Cape Magic

By Richard Russo

That Old Cape Magic
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2009,
    272 pages.

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Book Summary

Griffin has been tooling around for nearly a year with his father’s ashes in the trunk, but his mother is very much alive and not shy about calling on his cell phone. She does so as he drives down to Cape Cod, where he and his wife, Joy, will celebrate the marriage of their daughter Laura’s best friend. For Griffin this is akin to driving into the past, since he took his childhood summer vacations here, his parents’ respite from the hated Midwest. And the Cape is where he and Joy honeymooned, in the course of which they drafted the Great Truro Accord, a plan for their lives together that’s now thirty years old and has largely come true. He’d left screenwriting and Los Angeles behind for the sort of New England college his snobby academic parents had always aspired to in vain; they’d moved into an old house full of character; and they’d started a family. Check, check and check.

But be careful what you pray for, especially if you manage to achieve it. By the end of this perfectly lovely weekend, the past has so thoroughly swamped the present that the future suddenly hangs in the balance. And when, a year later, a far more important wedding takes place, their beloved Laura’s, on the coast of Maine, Griffin’s chauffeuring two urns of ashes as he contends once more with Joy and her large, unruly family, and both he and she have brought dates along. How in the world could this have happened?

That Old Cape Magic is a novel of deep introspection and every family feeling imaginable, with a middle-aged man confronting his parents and their failed marriage, his own troubled one, his daughter’s new life and, finally, what it was he thought he wanted and what in fact he has. The storytelling is flawless throughout, moments of great comedy and even hilarity alternating with others of rueful understanding and heart-stopping sadness, and its ending is at once surprising, uplifting and unlike anything this Pulitzer Prize winner has ever written.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Russo (Empire Falls) convincingly depicts a life coming apart at the seams, but the effort falls short of the literary magic that earned him a Pulitzer." - Publishers Weekly

"Those who savored Russo's long, languid novels (e.g., Pulitzer winner Empire Falls) may be surprised by this one's rapid pace, but Russo's familiar compassion for the vicissitudes of the human condition shines through." - Library Journal

"Readable, as always with this agreeable and gifted author." - Kirkus Reviews

"Whether we embrace it or try to escape it, the family is at the center of our lives. Along with that voracious little worm of dissatisfaction, munching away. Which will triumph? Richard Russo roots for the family, but he knows the worm is there." - The New York Times

"It's a marvelous portrayal of the strands of affection and irritation that run through a family, entangling in-laws and children's crushes and even old friends…He's a master of the comic quip and the ridiculous situation." - Washington Post

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Jane
Old Cape Magic
What a very good read. The subject of just how our parents relationship governs our own relationships has been on the minds of many of my friends. This book gives that theory a life of its own. I took parts of the book seriously and laughed like crazy about other parts. It is a true "slice of life" story that could be any of us.
The characters are so real and the settings are just the right thing for this tale.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Lynn
I love Richard Russo books!
I literally run to the bookstore the day a new book by Richard Russo comes out. I especially loved his books "Empire Falls" and "The Straight Man". This is not Mr. Russo's best book, but still a very enjoyable read. Mr. Russo writes with such humor and warmth, and nobody writes a better group of characters. In this book, the main character, Griffin, will remind you of the type of person you would love to have as a friend. The reason I gave it 4 stars is that I really didn't think the story was his best, but you will find the 2nd wedding in the book very enjoyable. Now those scenes were fun to read and something I will remember for a long time after the book is finished.

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Author Information

Richard Russo Author Biography

Pic: Elena Siebert

Richard Russo knows small town America. This masterful novelist has an uncanny sense of the way life works in the gritty industrial towns of the American Northeast. From the gossip and the resentments to the people and the cafes, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Richard Russo chronicles blue-collar America in ways constantly surprising and utterly revealing.

Russo's previous works include seven novels and one collection of short stories. His 2001 novel, Empire Falls, won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It was also adapted into an HBO mini-series, starring Paul Newman, Ed Harris, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Helen Hunt. His latest book, Elsewhere, came out in 2012.

Russo earned a bachelor's degree, a master's in fine arts, and a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. He ...

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