The Meryl Streep Movie Club
Meryl Streep, an actress who is known as much for her choices of challenging and unconventional movie roles as for her mastery of a seemingly infinite number of regional accents, might seem an odd choice as the focus of what, in the end, is a fairly conventional story of family and romance. Ultimately, though, the questions raised by Streep's movies are precisely the questions that Mia March's characters need to ask each other --- and themselves --- in this debut novel that's as breezy as a summer on the Maine coast.
"March's debut novel is a romantic, heartfelt read, one that will likely be pulled out of beach bags from California to the coast of Maine this summer season."
Fittingly enough, as it turns out, since the novel is set at the Three Captains' Inn in Boothbay Harbor, a picturesque resort town in coastal Maine. It's been 15 years since innkeeper Lolly Weller's husband, sister and brother-in-law were all killed in a car accident on New Year's Eve, leaving Lolly's teenage nieces, Isabel and June, orphans and her own daughter, Kat, without a father. Now the girls are all grown up, and Lolly has invited them back to the Three Captains' Inn to tell them a heartbreaking secret.
The three women have heartaches and woes of their own. Isabel, who met her husband Edward when both of them were teenagers in a grief counseling group, has begun to regret their agreement never to have children --- and perhaps even to regret her agreement to marry Edward in the first place when she discovers he's been having an affair with their neighbor.
Isabel's younger sister, June, was a promising literary student and writer, with dreams of becoming an editor at The New Yorker, but becoming pregnant while she was still an undergraduate at Columbia put an end to those dreams. Now she's a single mother and the manager of a local independent bookstore. She can't stop thinking about her son's father and wondering why he left her when their encounter sure felt like love at first sight.
And then there's Kat, Lolly's daughter and the youngest of the three women. She has lived at the inn her whole life, learning the skill of baking while dreaming of traveling, going to culinary school, or opening her own bake shop. Her childhood sweetheart, Oliver, has just proposed, and she has accepted in a moment of emotional vulnerability. But is marriage what she really wants right now?
As these three women --- who often didn't get along as teens but who seem suddenly eager to become best friends in the wake of crisis --- ask themselves these tough questions while they cope with Lolly's wrenching news, one thing brings them together every few days: Meryl Streep movie night at the inn. From Mamma Mia! to Kramer vs. Kramer, the films they watch and discuss together (albeit in an occasionally awkward way that would be really annoying to someone trying to actually watch the movie) help them clarify their own situations and find both the healing and the direction forward that they seek.
THE MERYL STREEP MOVIE CLUB has plenty of tidy endings --- enough to make any big-time Hollywood producer happy --- but it also takes a realistic approach to the dilemmas facing Isabel, June and Kat, not to mention Lolly herself. March's debut novel is a romantic, heartfelt read, one that will likely be pulled out of beach bags from California to the coast of Maine this summer season.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on June 22, 2012
The Meryl Streep Movie Club
- Publication Date: June 19, 2012
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Gallery Books
- ISBN-10: 1451655398
- ISBN-13: 9781451655391