Read That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo Arthur Morey Online


Following Bridge of Sighs—a national best seller hailed by The Boston Globe as “an astounding achievement” and “a masterpiece”—Richard Russo gives us the story of a marriage, and of all the other ties that bind, from parents and in-laws to children and the promises of youth.Griffin has been tooling around for nearly a year with his father’s ashes in the trunk, but his mothFollowing Bridge of Sighs—a national best seller hailed by The Boston Globe as “an astounding achievement” and “a masterpiece”—Richard Russo gives us the story of a marriage, and of all the other ties that bind, from parents and in-laws to children and the promises of youth.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.From the Hardcover edition....

Title : That Old Cape Magic
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ISBN : 9780739318928
Format Type : Audio CD
Number of Pages : 9 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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That Old Cape Magic Reviews

  • Will Byrnes
    2019-06-07 01:39

    The title refers to a modification of the song “That Old Black Magic,” a tune sung with verve and hope by narrator Jack Griffin’s parents when they would cross the bridge into Cape Cod every summer for one month of relief from eleven months of misery. Each of the book’s eleven chapters connects to some aspect of Cape Cod in Jack’s life, from summer vacations there as a kid, to his honeymoon to the wedding of his daughter’s friend, and later his daughter’s wedding. Place is important to the story beyond Cape Cod. Jack’s parents, both from upstate New York, aspired to live and teach in Ivy, or near-Ivy League institutions in the northeast, but their Ivy-League degrees are not sufficient to gain them Ivy-League careers and they are relegated to the “mid-fucking-west.” His wife’s parents, and thus her familial connections, are in Republican, suburban California. Living in Connecticut offers strains to her as well. Along with Cape Cod as a central image, the relationship of Jack to his parents is a core concern, familiar turf for Russo. How much of any of us is truly our own? How much are we influenced, formed by our parents? How much of them can we set aside, escape, embrace and still be separate people? How much of what we want is really our own, and not a carry-forward of our parents dreams? In career, in marriage, in family? Jack struggles with trying to live his own life. His parents are always in his thoughts. He is even toting his father’s ashes about with him, planning to scatter them in the cape, struggling to actually do the deed. Jack has been married to Joy for 34 years, and they have had their ups and downs. Once a Hollywood screenwriter of modest accomplishment, he returned east for a college teaching post. His dream or his parents? His dream or Joy’s, who had wanted him to move away from screenwriting to teaching? The pull of LA remains strong, work for him, family for her. The central action of the story centers on the viability of Jack and Joy’s marriage. Personally, I felt it hitting a bit too close to home at times. Not so much in the specifics. My life has been very different from Jack’s, but we are the same age and have both gone through the deep emotional scarring that long-term relationships can entail. As a veteran of those wars, I recognize the verity of long, silent car rides, uncomfortable silences, changes in how one views one’s mate, old secrets exposed, private tears seen. I suppose it is a good thing that Russo made me squirm with this familiarity. That his writing hits home in so personal a way reinforces the fact that he knows of what he speaks. There is significant craft at work here, as one would expect from a master writer of Russo's caliber. He parallels the pining of Jack’s partner Tommy for Jack’s wife, Joy, with that of young (ironically named) Sunny Kim, for his daughter Laura. He offers significant hooks to parental engagement, from the ashes Jack is toting, and never quite getting around to scattering, to the voice of his mother in his head. Water is used for its lachrymose and rebirth purposes. Is it stretching too far to wonder if Jack Griffin was named as he was in support of his dual nature, as part Hollywood guy and part academic? There are bits of humor here, and some are pretty funny, but I found that in the overall feel of the book, most of the humor did not do much for me. Maybe it was just my personal reaction, having been brought back to dark days. For folks who did not vibrate with such feelings it is probably a lot funnier. This is no Empire Falls or Bridge of Sighs. While Russo offers a multi-generational view of a family here, the story is more individual and less social, less big-picture historical and more how the history of one family affects their descendants today, Richard Russo light. That works too.

  • Andrea
    2019-05-19 00:16

    I find Richard Russo's greatest strength to be the humanity he gives to his working-class, somewhat crude, and deeply flawed characters in the blue-collar New England and upstate New York towns he generally chronicles.That said, this is a book centered on the highly cerebral problems of a middle-aged, middle-class academic going through a life crisis. So...yeah, not so much.Russo's writing ability still shines through, but the characters just don't have that sympathetic spark that binds the reader to the character despite the character's (usually major) issues. Griffin, the main character, spends so much time pitying himself that there's no room for anyone else to feel sorry for him, and so I spent the entire novel feeling vaguely annoyed with him and flat out not liking many of the other characters.Then there's my general lack of patience for that entire genre: the New England academic/writer experiencing a midlife crisis. It's awfully self-indulgent, and it's been done approximately four billion times before.In sum, if you're looking for a Richard Russo book to read, please don't start off with this one.

  • Sara
    2019-06-16 21:21

    This book has moments in which you can see that Richard Russo has vision and could write a masterpiece. This is not it. This is pretty much your predictable fluffy “marriage on the rocks, but we really love each other” novel. There is humor, conflict of the soul, and the proven conviction that there is no such thing as a family that is not dysfunctional on some level. It is also about the expectations we have of ourselves and those other have for us, and how those conflict and often disappoint. It seems also to be about the inability of people to know anyone else in anything more than a surface way, even those we think we know completely.After a very slow start, I became engaged with Jack Griffin and his efforts to unravel the truth about himself, his parents, and his life. I particularly enjoyed his humorous scenes that serve to break up the heaviness of this kind of introspection and a couple of quirky characters that make you shake your head a bit. The Cape is Cape Cod and because of his parents’ view of the Cape when he was a child, I think it represents the impossible utopia that so many of us waste our lives trying to find while we pass up the very real happiness that is within our reach.I have two other Russo’s on my shelf and I will still plan to read them. Considering that he was a Pulitzer winner, I am hopeful that all the good things I found in this novel will be developed and enhanced in the next two.

  • Steve
    2019-06-10 00:22

    Russo said in an interview that he’d originally intended for this to be a short story. Then he wrote a scene where Jack Griffin, his main character, was on the side of the road talking to his shrew of a mother on the phone when a seagull flew by and dropped a calling card on his head. At that point any tidy resolutions to Griffin’s problems weren’t going to work – further development was going to be needed. But at 261 pages, we could have used more. To be honest, it felt a little thin. I say this at the same time I claim Russo as a personal favorite; I’m grateful for dollops of any size. Had this been my first of his books, I’d have nary a critical word. But fans know the heights he can scale.Griffin is a 55-year-old academic, a former screenwriter, a husband, and a son, but doesn’t seem fully engaged in any of his roles. With parents like his, pulling away was understandable. They were academics themselves, Ivy-leaguers appointed beneath their station in the Mid-effing-west, with a haughty disdain for their intellectual inferiors which to them included pretty much everyone. At times they were laughably bad (one of the book’s great strengths). Griffin disengaged from them, but not as much as he wanted to believe. This was a major theme, even as they became ashes in urns. Troubles in his marriage were harder to figure. His wife was not the problem, though; that much we surmise. Russo is usually so good at developing characters. This time, too, he gets into heads and tells revealing stories about Griffin and the gang, but … (you knew there’d be a but) at times he makes Griffin out to be borderline obtuse. If Griffin, in one instance, can write so knowingly about people, as he did in a very good story within the story about a boyhood friend at the Cape, how can he be, at other times, so heedless, turning even allies against him? Russo characters are often flawed, but rarely lacking in people smarts or self-awareness as Griffin seemed to be. Then again, maybe that was just part of the dark humor that ran throughout. Irony is another guess, what with the writer/professor falling short in the insight department, unable to read people.Despite the brevity, many of the secondary characters were memorable. Griffin’s daughter, who was getting married in Act III of the book, was honest and kind—-more like her mother, Joy. Joy’s family stood out, too. Her knuckleheaded brothers, twin Marine MP’s, were a hoot. I was also interested in a character named Sunny Kim, a Korean immigrant and friend of Griffin’s daughter since childhood. He was smart, respectful, and repressed, but Russo went beyond stereotypes to give us a glimpse into a rich inner life, too. (Mr. Russo, since you’re likely to stop by soliciting feedback from reviewers like me, please consider a follow-up story focusing on Sunny. I have a similar suggestion involving Rub from Nobody’s Fool.)When it’s all said and done, this is a very satisfying read. I might have a few quibbles about Griffin and his plight, but in the end it’s recognizably Russovian, which is always a good thing.

  • Orrin Laferte
    2019-06-14 23:31

    This is the first book by Richard Russo that I have read and I know he has had some great reviews on previous publications. This was just an OK book for me. It reminded me of a 21st Century Updike or Cheevers. There was almost as much drinking, cheating and dysfunction, but not as many interesting people. The academic snobbery hasn't changed with the century. Other than the male protagonist's wife , daughter and temporary girlfriend, I didn't like or relate to any of the characters in this book. Russo created three somewhat likable and interesting females, but the rest of the cast is aggravating and/or uninspiring. I won't miss being part of their world.The writing is yeomanly, but no one sentence or paragraph makes you say "boy I wish that I had written that". Since this is a character study, there are no attempts at vivid descriptions of the landscape of Cape Cod or coastal Maine. I don't think that's Russo's shtick. The plot wanders from Cape Cod to Southern California to Maine and back to the Cape where I guess we have a happy ending. But nothing about it is compelling, suspenseful, enlightening or even very entertaining.A mediocre effort by a professional novelist.

  • Barbara
    2019-06-07 19:39

    This is my first Russo book and I did enjoy it. Some have said it's about a man's midlife crisis, but I am not altogether sure that's what it's about at all. It's about a man and his wife, his parents and hers. It's about the influences and familial situations and relationships (real or imagined) that make us who we are.It's about guilt, love, self effacing, self love or at least self acceptance. It's about what it really takes to look truthfully into that all knowing mirror and not turn away from the ugly realities that have become you. It's about facing those realities, coming to terms with them, and trying to become more honest and stronger because of it.A good, quick read. I would read another novel by Russo.

  • Guille
    2019-05-28 20:32

    A menudo los hijos se nos parecen, y así nos dan la primera satisfacción, que decía el inefable Serrat. Aunque también es verdad que algunas de nuestras actitudes vistas en nuestros hijos nos puedan producir tristeza. Pero, ¿qué ocurre cuando es al contrario? ¿qué pasa cuando nos horroriza descubrir en nosotros esa herencia de nuestros padres, a los que por nada del mundo nos querríamos parecer? Este es el hilo conductor de este libro que transcurre por la carretera secundaria de la crisis de madurez del protagonista y en la que a un lado y a otro de la misma se nos despliegan esas historias simples en apariencia, en las que se plantean temas tan comunes como las relaciones entre marido y mujer, hijos y padres, yernos, nueras y suegros, sueños, planes juveniles, objetivos que cambian con el tiempo, y no siempre al unísono con la pareja. Temas tratados aquí con una gran sensibilidad, con humor, e incluso con comicidad (y tampoco faltan escenas de lagrimita).Una novela encantadora.

  • Jennifer
    2019-06-14 02:22

    Rick Russo's new book contains some familiar, beloved elements for Russo-philes-- a devoted, exhausted wife; a smart, snarky daughter; an irritating mother who doesn't stop meddling, even after death--and at the center, a restless, loving soul, this time the professor Griffin, who wrestles with life's meaning, love, and legacy. But there's new ground here too, not least in the brevity and economy of the story. Plus, at times CAPE MAGIC is more laugh out loud funny than any Russo book in recent memory. Above all, I found the faint whiff of mortality hovering over these pages, which gave the tale a sense of gravity and sobriety even in the midst of its comic moments. Russo, of course, is my dear friend, and so I'm biased. But I think he's one of the best American novelists, ever, and CAPE MAGIC is one of his best. Russo departs today on a multi-city book tour, so catch him if you can.

  • Petra
    2019-06-13 01:41

    Jack's journey of soul searching and finding his way was warmly told and delightfully entertaining. Jack is afraid to fully engage in life. He keeps much of himself to himself, so much so that he pushes people away, especially those who love him.In middle-age, he struggles to understand himself, his life, what's important and what he wants....not what others want for him. Who is Jack? The story is told with humor, warmth, family and life. This is the first of Richard Russo's books that I've read and I'm looking forward to reading his others.

  • Elizabeth☮
    2019-05-26 02:34

    While I haven't read tons by Russo, I definitely will count on any of his books to engage me. He is able to make small moments so important. I marvel at how the thread unravels. This deals with a couple attending two different weddings. They have been married for over thirty years. But this is Russo, so you know there's way more going on here. Another great story from a gifted writer.

  • Tara
    2019-06-19 01:35

    Be forewarned: When you gaze into the eyes of your future mate and proclaim "I do," odds are that you're tying the knot with three people, not one. Richard Russo's recent novel explores the inconvenient fact that most marriages involve two players on the field and four players on the bench; each partner's parents are shadow participants in the enterprise, despite their physical distance or animate state.Jack Griffin and his wife, Joy, have weathered a 30-year union with relative success. The marriage has had its ups and downs, but each of them has come to accept the other's perceived idiosyncrasies with equanimity and the occasional rolled eyeball. Griffin can't relate to Joy's effusively close relationship with her parents and siblings; he perceives it as unnatural and mildly obnoxious. Nonetheless, he endures her daily phone chats with her sisters and attends backslapping holiday reunions with only an occasional complaint ("I guess what I can't understand is why we can't have one holiday with just us."). Joy, on the other hand, can't understand Griffin's desire to avoid contact with his own parents altogether. She concedes that his childhood memories of constant marital bickering were less than ideal, but family is family, and their only child Laura deserves to know both sets of grandparents. Nonetheless, Joy sighs and goes along with Griffin's strategy of avoidance, even after his father dies and his mother seeks to mend old ties.Griffin's obsessive attempt to avoid his mother's manipulative intrusions and his father's influence beyond the grave seems doomed to failure: he finds himself involved in heated mental arguments with them that take place in his head as he drives down the highway; he catches himself repeating his father's physical mannerisms and adopting his mother's cynical view of human nature; he realizes that his weathered Connecticut farmhouse and teaching post at a toney East Coast school is a realization of everything his parents wished for, but never attained ( snobby academics who graduated from the Ivy League, his parents felt permanently cheated when relegated to the "Mid-f***ing West" for their entire teaching careers). Griffin can't even bring himself to disperse his father's ashes, which have been residing in an urn in the wheel well of his car for over a year.Griffin's parents are major characters in the novel and provide most of its laugh-out-loud humor. The best chapters in the book involve the contentious history of their marriage and the quirky love/hate nature of their relationship. The elder Griffins share an amazingly similar view of life: they've been screwed over and there's nothing to be done for it. Their yearly summer pilgrimages to Cape Cod, where they torture themselves by imagining how life might have been had their professional fortunes been otherwise, is punctuated by wistful searches through the local real estate guide, where every house they study is either far beyond their means or something so dilapidated that "they wouldn't have it, even as a gift." Unfortunately, the elder Griffins also share a fierce sense of competition. When Griffin's father begins to indulge in philandering, Griffin's mother responds in kind. When Mr. Griffin falls in love with an intellectually challenged graduate student young enough to be his granddaughter, Mrs. Griffin is torn between outrage and secret satisfaction at the girl's bovine dullness. Griffin's mother puts up with her husband's infidelities for a preternaturally long time because she's afraid that once divorced, he could move away from the dreaded Midwest and find a better teaching position than she enjoys, a fact that would drive her crazy. They cling to each other in a marital death spiral until they can't take it any more, but even after the divorce each ex-spouse follows the trajectory of the other's life with intense and spiteful interest.Will Griffin ever be able to escape his obsession with his parents' shortcomings? Will Joy finally snap and refuse to put up with Griffin's growing tendency to look at everything in life as something beyond his means or "something that he wouldn't have, even as a gift?" Can any of us ever escape eventually becoming our parents? Do yourself a favor and read this amusing, intelligently written book to find out. (Note: the storyline, which is book-ended by two colorful weddings, begs to be made into a movie, which makes sense; Richard Russo is also a successful screenwriter.)

  • Jason
    2019-05-31 01:27

    First impressions:What really comes to the fore in a sort of throwaway novel like this is just how good a writer Russo is. Even with a story that is not meant to be overly complex, and isn't weighed down with a large cast of characters, Russo is such a capable craftsman.When I, as a person who (sadly) can't write, think of the writing process I think of sitting down, looking around the room, taking a deep breath, and starting to type. Russo dashes this image completely. I saw an interview with him once where he was in his office, and all over the wall behind him were white boards filled with a tight script, post-it notes lined up in row after row, and other similar types of organizational systems. Clearly Russo, at least in this particular instance, was not given to sitting down at the word processor and flying by the seat of his pants until the story finished itself. His process of careful planning is very evident in this book.Russo's deft maneuvering through disparate timelines is only eclipsed by someone like Faulkner, and I could see someone making an argument that Russo is even better at it because of the largely modernism free clarity of his narrative execution. His usage of overlapping revisits to the past never fail to clearly build tension and significance, as opposed to Faulkner's arguable increase of confusion and befuddlement. Russo continues to reveal to me that he is an incredibly important American writer.Final thoughts:A good book, rewarding, thoughtful, and nostalgic. I enjoyed it very much.

  • Jeanette
    2019-06-19 00:26

    Oh boy! ohboy ohboy ohboy ohboy... Whenever I give a book five stars and don't write much of a review, you all know that it moved me so much that I don't know what to say. I adore Richard Russo, but have never given any of his books five stars. Partway through the book, I never would have expected this to be the one to get the fifth star. But I stuck with it because I knew Russo wouldn't let me down, and by the end I was laughing and crying at the same time. To truly appreciate what this book offers, I think you have to be a person "of a certain age" with a lot of life experience. I am in awe of Russo's deep understanding of complex relationships. And I'm perhaps even more in awe of his ability to convey that understanding in writing without ever becoming maudlin or trite. I've just now finished the book, so a more complete review may follow. I figured I'd better write at least *something* now, before the book gets buried on my shelves and I forget that I didn't review it.--------------------------------------------------------------------August 17 After reading Chris's review, I'm editing to add that you really should not read the flap copy on the book jacket before reading this book! There are spoilers, doggone them! :(

  • Rose
    2019-06-06 19:23

    Hilarious! Slapstick! Russo? Yes, so cleverly written. Loved it.From the NYTimes Book Review (Roxanna Robinson): "Family, family, family is the subject of “That Old Cape Magic.” The family is where the best — and the worst — things happen to us. 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."

  • Kwoomac
    2019-05-29 00:27

    There are two weddings used as bookends with a year in the protagonist's life in between. Jack Griffin, after 34 years of marriage, is dealing with the question of who he wants to be when he grows up. His life has sort of snuck up on him and he's not sure if he's happy with where he ends up.We get to spend lots of very well written angst-filled days with Jack. Both of his parents have died within this past year, bringing up all kinds of memories. Let's just say Jack's parents weren't the warmest of parents. They are both academics, who've settled for jobs in the Midwest while they both believe they should be at an East coast Ivy League school. Jack has been given the task of spreading their ashes at a suitable place on the Cape. The parents divorced so two separate resting places are needed. The title of the book is somewhat ironic as the yearly vacation Jack and his parents spent on the Cape were often less than magical. Every year as his parents crossed over the bridge that brought them to a cape Cod, they would sing "that old Cape Magic" to the tune of "that Old Black Magic." The family clung to the hope that. This year's vacation would be the magical one. My favorite character by far was Jack's deceased mother, who frequently made snarky comments about whatever was going on in Jack's life. I didn't much care for her when she was alive, but dead she was funny. Russo did not write a 'feel good ' story here. The characters and story are real. And real isn't always pretty. Jack sums up his current life thusly: Late middle age, he was coming to understand, was a time of life when everything was predictable and yet somehow you failed to see any of it coming.Three stars because, while I understood the characters, I never really connected with any of them. How things might turn out was not all that urgent or important to me. I wanted to feel more. I need to feel more.

  • Marialyce
    2019-05-19 03:24

    This was my first novel by Mr Russo and I did enjoy the oft told tale of a marriage that has soured over the years and the impact one's parents have on what you yourself become. It was a quick read and had a number of characters who were both likeable, but oftentimes seemed a bit whiny. I felt the end of the book was better than the beginning and particularly enjoyed the main character's talks with both his deceased mother and father which by the way, he carried (their ashes), around in the trunk of his car.The story seemed at times to be a bit disjointed, but in a way was not that the way our characters were suppose to be? Perhaps, too, the ending was predetermined which often makes the reader come away with a point of satisfaction that ahha moment when one says to oneself, "I knew that was going to happen."Would I read Mr Russo"s other novels? The answer to that would be "yes" as I saw a type of witty nature that I really think he might have developed better in his other novels. All in all, it was a pleasant read, more in the nature of a 2+ read, but I bumped it up because I am a sucker for a happy ending. This was one of those mindless fun type reads and after all a bit of fluff never hurts anyone really.

  • Sherry
    2019-06-12 01:14

    What could be wrong with this book? The writing is very good, as one would expect from Richard Russo. The plot is barely there, but that isn’t an issue. The characters are vivid—and that’s the problem. Nearly to a man (or woman), the characters are unlikable, and they are so vividly drawn that the reader feels like they’re jumping off the page—unfortunately, because these are not characters with whom you’d ever want to interact in real life. The protagonist is Jack, whose parents are so nasty, and so omnipresent, that perhaps it’s understandable that Jack himself is such a pain. His wife, Joy, seems set up to be the “good” character, but it’s hard to see how she and Jack managed to stay together for nearly 35 years, and when she dumps him while he’s dealing with the recent death of his father, she doesn’t exactly stake out the moral high ground. There are moments of humor, and certainly there are some interesting observations about families and their continuing influences. But the book’s unrelenting negativity makes it a tough read, and by its end, I was just glad to be rid of its characters, once and for all.

  • Michael
    2019-05-18 19:16

    A sweet and sardonic parable about how finding happiness in life is challenged by the continual collision of past and future with the present. Jack Griffin is happy in his marriage, his home in Connecticut, the transition of his career as a Hollywood scriptwriter to a college teaching post, and his thriving daughter. In the course of the novel, as we move backward and forward in time, all these foundations of his life are threatened. At the beginning, his return to Cape Cod to attend a wedding of his daughter's friend revives his conflicted memories of summer sojourns there during his youth. The Cape represents the dream of happiness his snobby, academic parents aspired to but never could afford. There is much satirical humor about academics as in Russo's "Straight Man". The dialogue and internal monologues of Griffin (including the internalized voice of his mother) are wonderful vehicles for our journey with an ordinary man with a good heart trying to find the right path through life with his own and his wife's dysfunctional families. To me, the novel was satisfying in the same way as Richard Ford's "The Sportswriter."

  • Margaret
    2019-06-07 19:14

    I love Richard Russo. This is my 3rd Russo read in a year, and I'm hooked. That Old Cape Magic is wise and very funny. Spoken in first person, we really get inside the skin of Jack Griffen, learning to empathize with all his baggage around his parents and how their stormy relationship and vacations in Cape Cod gets him stuck in behaviors that even he doesn't like, but can't change. The writing comes from a mature and knowing place that looks at people and loves them despite in spite of their weaknesses. Arrogance and snobbery get their their comic due. No one is spared. This is a fun read that stays in your head and stretches your heart. It's also a slim volume and is written with such economy that it's hard to find a spare word.

  • Andy
    2019-06-17 21:14

    mid life crisis precipitated by protagonist's daughter's engagement and his father's deathstruggle with purpose and longing to return from academic backwaters to screen writingtries to reconcile his parents' disinterest in him as a child with fractious relationship with mother now(view spoiler)[jumps ahead to the wedding, with separation from wife in progress, feel we missed something... (hide spoiler)]does pick up pace and holds my interest in the second halfmy first read from Richard Russo, might give another one a go

  • Craig
    2019-05-21 20:40

    Russo has the knack of just skewering pretentious academics and he is at his best here. I just loved this book and have re-read it a couple of times

  • Anderson's Bookshops
    2019-06-01 22:15

    Sally said: "This Russo book is a funny, poignant look at a man's mid-life crisis as he travels Cape Cod and his memories. Like the author's Straight Man, this is a light, amusing story that will be sure to please his fans. The main character is carrying around...more This Russo book is a funny, poignant look at a man's mid-life crisis as he travels Cape Cod and his memories. Like the author's Straight Man, this is a light, amusing story that will be sure to please his fans. The main character is carrying around lots of baggage - literally the ashes of his father and is examining his parents horrific (in a funny way) behavior. I recommend it."Mary K rated it: 4 starsRead in June, 2009 No one writes about human frailties better than Richard Russo, who questions whether we really know ourselves in this funny (Russo funny? Yes!), bittersweet novel. Jack Griffin is fighting a mid-life crisis - he and his wife have are growing apart, he longs for the job of his youth, his mother is constantly harping in his ear, and he can't quite let go of his father - literally. With his daughter's engagement, he begins to reminisce about his own parents and his relationship with them. 06/19/09 Susan Buschmann rated it: 4 stars Maybe I missed it before, but was Richard Russo ever this funny? That Old Cape Magic was a little more light-hearted, even downright slapstick in one memorable place. Jack Griffin is caught in an emotional impasse between weddings, you might say. His marriage is in jeopardy and the urns of "remains" in the wheel-wells of the rental car may have something to do with it. It's about the complex relationships we have with our parents (and maybe our spouse's parents) and how long it takes us to resolve them. Too bad the release date isn't til August as the setting on Cape Cod would make it a delicious summer read, but that by no means indicates that it doesn't offer plenty to think about. Look forward to that rehearsal dinner chapter.06/15/09 Carol K. rated it: 3 stars This was such a surprise coming from this wonderful author! At first glance "That Old Cape Magic" appears to be simply a story about a 55 yr. old man in a mid-life crisis. However, it is so much more than that. It is a study of love, marriage, the importance of family and the inescapable influence of parents on their children. Jack Griffin's anecdotes about his upbringing describe 2 very unlikable parents, who, he convinces himself, he doesn't like. It is remarkably well done, with the trademark humor that is vintage Russo.

  • Paul
    2019-06-19 01:31

    Really disappointing. I was initially drawn to this book by the cover, actually, though I was totally unaware that there were reading instructions thereon. This is definitely beach reading, and unfortunately little more. Russo tells a great story, and most of his characters are fully formed and interesting. But he holds the reader's hand the entire way, pointing out the important bits, telling him/her everything he/she needs to know, so that as a reader, you're sitting in the passenger seat the entire time, never getting the chance to take the wheel and wonder, to sit back and look around with your own eyes for a second. "Odd" things happen, and it's clear that the reader is meant to forget about them, so that Russo can explain them a hundred pages later, only the problem is we haven't forgotten about them, nor were they even that odd in the first place, and we've figured out the "mystery" long before Russo gets around to explaining it to us. E.g. a character claims that her mother was working on a "pistolary" book. "A western?" someone asks. Obviously she's talking about an epistolary novel, and, sure enough, this is explained several chapters later, as if we hadn't seen it coming miles off.The protagonist's mother is cartoonishly overbearing in the first part of the novel, and in the second half, spoiler alert, but in the second half when she dies, she remains so seriously ensconced in the protagonist's mind that she is still able to speak, and we get little bits of semi-imagined dialogue in italics throughout the narrative. Yes, this is irritating. Also, am I wrong in assuming that the whole comically-fucked-up-wedding-that-still-ends-up-working-out-just-fine-in-the-end-because-love-conquers-all-and-the-connection-between-the-young-bride-and-groom-is-obviously-more-important-than-the-pomp-and-the-circumstance-and-what's-a-black-eye-or-two-anyway-right? theme is cliche? Maybe it's because I read A Spot of Bother five years ago. Also, can we please just, as writers and readers, pretend The Da Vinci Code just never happened? Can we please not make references it to it in our own literature, thus prolonging its existence in the culture? Is that just me?Anyway. Much too light and fluffy and overt for my taste. I expected much more from a Pulitzer Prize winner.

  • Avidreader
    2019-05-18 21:41

    What stood out for me was that the sense of place triggered the character's childhood memories, and as he relived these memories partially by seeking out the exact locales, his adult brain interpreted the memory completely differently, which is what provoked his current distress. Even when he wrote the short story in his younger years, he wrote it based on his memory as a child, and when he came back to the location with his years of emotional growth, the realization hit him that maybe that's not what really happened, and that was borne out when he had the convo with his mother about it and her memory completely differed from what he recalled. Once he began questioning his memory of that experience, I think his entire foundation of himself (who he is, what he wants, what his goals are) began to shatter. That's why he couldn't release those ashes yet. He wasn't sure whether to follow his mother's direction or to do as he pleased. He had lost his sense of self. In truth, he started to question did he really have a sense of "self," or was he just an amalgamation of his mother and father, which is what other posters have suggested as well. I agree with others that there could be a whole book about Sunny or maybe Margarite (sp).

  • Judy
    2019-05-19 01:22

    Well, here's middle age disappointment at its best. Jack Griffin is disappointed with his life--his job, his marriage, where he lives, etc. And now he finds himself on the way to Cape Cod to a wedding. The very Cape Cod where he and his parents vacationed every summer while he was a child. Oh, and by the way, he's carrying his father's ashes in the trunk of his car. Those ashes have been in his trunk for over a year. And his mother is calling him repeatedly on his cell phone, giving him orders and expressing her deep disappointment with her only son. To say that the novel picks up from here and becomes lighter wouldn't be exactly true. Fast forward another year and he is heading to Maine for another wedding and now he has two urns of ashes in his trunk. This is a novel that crossed genres--it's a family novel first and foremost. Russo reminds us that we never understand our parents and we are never loose from them. The novel is also an academic novel, both for Jack and for his parents who are both college professors and it also touches on being a Hollywood novel with its descriptions of the competitive work of screenwriting. But all in all, it works right up until the very end.

  • Jenifer
    2019-05-23 23:22

    Even though I have a lot bad to say about this book, our book club had a very good discussion about it. Turned out there was just a lot to say. Early on, I thought the author was taking sort of a dour, pessimistic attitude toward families, marriage, education, and life in general. I hoped there would eventually be some lovely moment to hold on to, or some tenderness in at least one of these dysfunctional relationships, but even at the end it was completely unromantic and unsentimental. Nothing. I feel sorry if this is the world Richard Russo lives in. I think if there's a moral to this story, it's got to be this; "being smart doesn't necessarily make you wise". These educated people didn't seem to have any tools or common sense about making good decisions or living happily. And they ALL had terrible language. I usually don't mind if a character has a favorite bad word that they say. It makes them a character. But all of these so-called "educated" people used the same one bad word over and over until I was just irritated. As their marriage broke up, this sentence appeared; "His unhappiness had exhausted her and she was just relieved to not have to deal with it anymore." I felt the same when I finished this book.

  • Sterlingcindysu
    2019-06-15 21:13

    Another reviewer said it best, it was "thin"--would have been a great short story, but the second half really seemed lacking in substance and details. (copied review) The book's two-part structure is simple and elegant: two weddings, a year apart, the first on Cape Cod, the second in Maine. Russo's focus in both parts is on Jack Griffin, a 57-year-old English professor who's having a "middle-age meltdown." Even while the wedding march plays for members of the younger generation, he's busy fumbling his own 34-year marriage. Griffin loves his wife, but "his dissatisfaction had become palpable." He's bored with teaching, and he hankers after the excitement of his Hollywood writing days. His bigger problem, though, is that he still harbors enough "pathological resentment" toward his parents for a therapists' convention. He's been carting his father's ashes around in the trunk of his car for nine months, waiting for just the right moment to let go of the mortal remains of the man who drove him crazy. And meanwhile, his 85-year-old mother keeps heckling him from her nursing home.

  • Bookmarks Magazine
    2019-06-04 21:30

    Set in Cape Cod, California, and Maine rather than upstate New York, That Old Cape Magic is smaller in scope than Russo's previous novels but nonetheless contains Russo's trademark psychological complexity. While reviewers disagreed about the novel's overall success, they concurred that Griffin's quarrelsome, bitter parents -- whom Griffin can't seem to shed -- steal the show. Another favorite was the story within a story called "The Summer of the Brownings," about Griffin's childhood friendship during a Cape Cod holiday. But critics were generally split on the comic, slapstick set pieces, Griffin's wearying narrative voice, and the story line's predictability. Still, Russo fans will find much to enjoy here -- though, hopefully, they will not identify with the familiar souls who blunder their way through life. This is an excerpt of a review published in Bookmarks magazine.

  • Barbara
    2019-06-01 01:32

    Perhaps someone can convince me that this book is worth completing. As I reached page 55, I asked myself why I was continuing, since I was unable to find any redeeming factors to lure me back. The characters are unappealing to me, which would be alright if their actions were of interest. They all seem to be making the wrong decisions repetitively and continue to mar their relationships. In comparison to Ruth Rendell's, Thirteen Steps Down, which I recently completed, her characters, while certainly "tainted" offered a richness and interest for the reader.Certainly there is some wry humor in this novel, but it does not enhance its attraction for me. The one thing that I did find appealing is the descriptions of nearby Cape Cod, where I have frequently visited.

  • Penny
    2019-06-14 20:23

    This is a detailed account of a man's life in middle age almost entirely from his own perspective.There is a whole host of angst and soul searching, condemning of parents and generally regretting and raging and shirking of the main character's own responsiblity for his happiness.It is well-written but the subject matter and the method of moving through it becomes tedious at times. Having said that the characters are very clear and their voices come through with precision. None of them I found to be particularly pleasant nor admirable if they werent pleasant.Many others have enjoyed this more than me but its interesting for what it is.