The Coast of Akron
Picador, 2006 (2005)
Hardcover, Paperback, CD
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Reviewed by Kerrily Sapet
hirty years ago, artists Lowell Haven and Jenny Meatyard met in London. They fell in love, inspired each other, and separated. Lowell rose to fame as an artist; his self portraits becoming well known. Jenny raised their daughter Merit, who now works at a small magazine. Add to the mix their part-time friend, lover, and
Fergus, with his sprawling Tudor mansion in Akron, Ohio, and the story becomes more than just the tale of a family split apart.
drienne Miller tells her tale,
The Coast of Akron
, in three distinct voices. Merit, Fergus, and Jenny, through an old diary, all take turns narrating the book. The reader sees how Lowell's actions have affected them all, along with their own unorthodox behaviors. All four of them lived together in Fergus's home when Merit was a child. Now they have grown apart in some ways, but deeply emotional and painful ties still bind them together. Fergus decides to plan an elaborate gathering to bring the characters all together, revealing long-standing secrets to everyone. The book hurtles toward its party train wreck of a conclusion.
n this book, Miller's plot unfolds deftly. But the sheer inability of any of the characters to bond in healthy psychological ways, beyond the glimmer here and there, made reading at times frustrating. While the story captured my interest, the characters left me feeling flat in certain sections, although through them Miller squarely takes on issues from infidelity to inspiration. Over all the book is flamboyant, ambitious, and worth the read.
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