Friday, March 21, 2014

That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo

In That Old Cape Magic, Richard Russo steps away from his usual working class towns in upstate New York, focusing instead on college professor Jack Griffin and his relationships with his wife, daughter, parents and in-laws. Trips to Cape Cod to attend two weddings, a year apart, mark the beginning and end of this story.  Cape Cod had played a big part in Griffin’s life. He’d spent his childhood summers there with his horrible parents, both college professors at a Midwestern public university. Incompatible and snobby, thwarted in their ambitions to teach at a more prestigious Eastern college, these two were experts at making themselves, their son and everyone else around them miserable. Yet Griffin loved the Cape all his life. He and his wife honeymooned, took jobs, bought a house and started a family in the area. The first wedding is that of his daughter’s best friend. In the second Griffin’s own beloved daughter marries. But a lot happens between weddings.  Griffin and his wife attend the first as a couple, a couple that has been married for thirty years. To their own daughter’s wedding, they each bring a date.  Griffin uses his time driving to and from his daughter’s wedding to examine how his own shortcomings have brought him to this state of affairs. With a little introspection, he realizes that he has not fallen as far from the family tree as he previously thought and admits to his own fault in his damaged relationships. Skilled writer that he is, Russo is able to turn all this family angst and anger into a very funny book.