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That Old Cape Magic

Cover of That Old Cape Magic

That Old Cape Magic

A Novel
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Griffin has been tooling around for nearly a year with his father's ashes in the trunk, but his mother is still very much alive, and not shy about calling on his cell phone. She does so as he drives...More
Griffin has been tooling around for nearly a year with his father's ashes in the trunk, but his mother is still very much alive, and not shy about calling on his cell phone. She does so as he drives...More
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Description-
  • Griffin has been tooling around for nearly a year with his father's ashes in the trunk, but his mother is still 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 there, his parents' respite from the hated Midwest, and the Cape is where he and Joy honeymooned.
        
    But 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, 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?


    From the Compact Disc edition.
Excerpts-
  • From the book

    I

    A Finer Place


    Though the digital clock on the bedside table in his hotel room read 5:17, Jack Griffin, suddenly wide awake, knew he wouldn't be able to get back to sleep. He'd allowed himself to drift off too early the night before. On the heels of wakefulness came an unpleasant realization, that what he hadn't wanted to admit yesterday, even to himself, was now all too clear in the solitary, predawn dark. He should have swallowed his petulance and waited the extra day for Joy.

    It had been their long- established habit to flee the campus as soon as Griffin taught his last class. Usually, they hopped on the Freedom Trail (his term for I- 95), drove to New York and treated themselves by checking into a good hotel. During the day he would evaluate his small mountain of student portfolios while Joy shopped or otherwise amused herself, and then, evenings, they'd catch up on movies and go to good restaurants. The whole thing reminded him of the early years of their marriage back in L.A. It cost a small fortune, but there was something about spending money they didn't really have that made him optimistic about more coming in--which was how it had worked in L.A.--and it got him through the portfolios.

    This year Kelsey's Cape Cod wedding had royally screwed up their plans, making New York impractical, though he'd been willing to substitute Boston. But Joy, assuming that thanks to the wedding all the usual bets were off, had messed things up further by scheduling
    meetings on the day after his last class. "Just go," she said when he expressed his annoyance at the way things were working out. "Have a boys' night out in Boston and I'll meet you on the Cape." He'd squinted at this proposal. Didn't you need more than one to have a boys' night out? Or had Joy meant it to be singular, one boy celebrating his boyness? Was that how she'd understood
    the phrase all her life, as singular? Joy's relationship to the English language was not without glitches. She was forever mixing metaphors, claiming that something was "a tough line to hoe." Row to hoe? Line to walk? Her sisters, Jane and June, were even worse,
    and when corrected all three would narrow their eyes dangerously and identically. If they'd had a family motto, it would have been You Know Perfectly Well What I Mean.

    In any event his wife's suggestion that he go on without her had seemed less than sincere, which was why he decided to call her bluff. "All right," he said, "that's what I'll do," expecting her to say, Fine, if it means that much to you, I'll reschedule the meetings. But she hadn't said that, even when she saw him packing his bag, and so he'd discovered a truth that other men probably knew already-- that once you'd packed a bag in front of a woman there was no possibility of unpacking, or of not going and taking the damn bag with you.

    Worse, Joy, who preferred to watch movies on DVD rather than in a theater, as they were meant to be seen, had given him a list of films he was forbidden to see without her, and of course these were the only ones worth seeing. He'd spent an hour looking through the restaurant guides provided by the hotel, but couldn't decide on one, or even on what kind of food he wanted. Griffin had no trouble making these sorts of decisions when she was around, but for some reason, when he had only himself to please, he often couldn't make up his mind. He told himself this was just the result of being married for thirty years, that part of the decision- making process was imagining what his wife would enjoy. Okay, but more and more he found himself stalled, in the middle of whatever room he happened to be standing in, and he realized that this had been,...

Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine Russo's middle-aged protagonist, Griffin, confronts his parents' failed marriage, his own troubled marriage, and his unattained ambitions. He never again achieves the joy inherent in his early childhood recollections of summers on Cape Cod. Recounting his parents' academic lives, fraught with intellectual snobbery and combative bickering, Griffin, a screenwriter turned English professor, never ceases to be baffled by their pretentious superiority. Arthur Morey grasps Russo's moments of cynical despair as well as the story's hilarity. His calculated narration develops distinct characters through artful and well-defined emotional pathos. His approach deftly captures Russo's depiction of life's ironies and comedy. A.W. (c) AudioFile 2009, Portland, Maine
  • Glenn C. Altschuler, The Boston Globe

    "Suffused with Russo's signature comic sensibility, and with insights, by turns tender and tough, about human frailty, forbearance, fortitude, and fervor."

  • Roxanna Robinson, The New York Times Book Review "Family, family, family is the subject of That Old Cape Magic [with] a complicated skein of plotlines, deep connection to place, and affection for the large cast of characters who blunder and struggle through his pages."
  • Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune "A touching portrait of smart people spinning their wheels."
  • Ron Charles, The Washington Post "Utterly charming. If you always cry at weddings, you'll cry at this--and laugh, too...Russo has written a novel for people who are terrified of becoming their parents, which is to say for everybody [and it] seems especially intimate, a dyspeptic romantic comedy from a Pulitzer Prize winner who catches the bittersweet humor of our common neuroses...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."
  • Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today "A comic yet thoughtful take on marriage...But amid the humor, it raises questions about the complications we inherit and the ones we build for ourselves."
  • Betsy Willeford, The Miami Herald "When we finish reading That Old Cape Magic, we know we'll start rereading it soon. And that the characters will come to mind at the most unpredictable times. We will stay on speaking terms with them more than we do with some of our real-life cousins."
  • Rosemary Herbert, Bangor Daily News "A recipe for laying ghosts to rest [and] a tale about love requited and unrequited. Finally, it is a big-hearted book about real, complex relationships that are an utterly fascinating mix of the two."
  • Andrew Abrahams, People "His most intimate yet: an astute portrait of a 30-year marriage, in all its promise and pain...His honest, heartfelt storytelling--like a cooling breeze off a certain New England shoreline--has never felt fresher."
  • Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist "Wryly funny...An impressively expansive analysis of familial dynamics between not only spouses but also in-laws, parents and children...It's Russo all the same, and his many fans are sure to savor the journey."
  • Pam Houston, O, The Oprah Magazine "In one of America's most mythic landscapes, Russo details one man's shaky first steps out of his past and into self-knowledge with good humor, generosity, and an open heart."
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A Novel
Richard Russo
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Richard Russo
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