Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Coast of Akron

This one has been on my list for years, primarily because Akron, Ohio is one of the main characters. Don't let the fact that it took me ages to read it take away from what a great book this really was. Sometimes silly things get in the way of what's most pleasurable.

The Coast of Akron, the first novel by Adrienne Miller, is a tale of an eccentric family's complete meltdown. Lowell Haven is a egotistical, famous artist who only paints self-portraits. His daughter, Merit, is married to an obsessive-compulsive engineer but is herself extremely promiscuous. The ways in which she justifies her trysts is quite amusing. Jenny, Lowell's ex-wife, is on the verge of a breakdown and rightly so. Which brings in Fergus, Lowell's gay lover, who is filthy rich and lives in a 65-room Tudor mansion. I had the tendency to think the author borrowed a few rooms and descriptions about the house from one of my favorite places, Stan Hywet Hall. (side note: If you've never been there, don't pass go. Go directly to the most fabulous house in northeast Ohio.)

The story alternates between Merit and Fergus' present-day perspective and entries from Jenny's diary from the 1970s. Each voice lends a terrific perspective and continually gets funnier and more absurd. The general plot follows Fergus as he plans an elaborate party with the intention of unveiling the secret that Jenny hides and also to discover why Lowell mysteriously stopped painting five years earlier.

I'd definitely consider this one a "beach read" because it was so easy to turn the pages and I was laughing and intrigued the whole time. I'm glad I finally got around to it!