Monday, April 24, 2017
Published August 2009 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Read by Arthur Morey
Source: my audiobook copy purchased at my library book sale
For Griffin, all paths, all memories, converge at Cape Cod. The Cape is where he took his childhood summer vacations, where he and his wife, Joy, honeymooned, where they decided he’d leave his LA screenwriting job to become a college professor, and where they celebrated the marriage of their daughter Laura’s best friend. But when their beloved Laura’s wedding takes place a year later, Griffin is caught between chauffeuring his mother’s and father’s ashes in two urns and contending with Joy and her large, unruly family. Both he and she have also brought dates along. How in the world could this have happened?
Two summers, two weddings, one marriage falling apart in the way that most marriages that fall apart do, not the spectacular way that is so often portrayed in movies and books, but in a slow, quiet decline.
When we marry we all bring with us the models we have for marriage and our families. No matter how lucky we get in what our mate has brought with him or her in this way, it's still a dance. Whose family will you spend Christmas with this year? Why is her brother such a blowhard? Why does his mother look down on me?
Jack Griffin's parents were really quite unpleasant people, not very good parents, and terrible at being married to each other. Every summer though, they traveled to Cape Cod where they called a truce and actually became affectionate. When Jack marries Joy, he's determined to spend as little time as possible with his parents. But keeping them physically out of his life doesn't mean that they aren't casting a giant shadow over it and over Jack's and Joy's marriage and they still have to deal with Joy's family, a family Jack is ill-equipped to deal with.
Told largely through flashbacks, Russo explores how the baggage we bring with us affects the lives we are working to create for ourselves and how we can never entirely leave our history behind us. Even, as it turns out, when our history is not exactly the way we remember it.
I really enjoyed Arthur Morey as a reader; he did an excellent job of channeling Jack's voice. Russo's no slack at writing either and there was a lot I enjoyed about That Old Cape Magic. But, in the end, I found that I was so annoyed with Jack's character that it was hard of me to care about him or cheer for the survival of his marriage. It's a good book. It's just not a great book.