I think readers fall into two camps: those who enjoy pandemic novels that bring back all the stress and angst of 2020 Covid, and those who do not enjoy pandemic novels that bring back all the stress and angst of 2020 Covid. I am one of the readers who enjoys those novels, and the most recent one I read was Pete And Alice In Maine by Caitlin Shetterly. It’s about a married couple with two daughters living in New York who decide to move to their summer house in Maine when the city starts shutting down in March 2020. Pete and Alice’s marriage was already in crisis, and the proximity and isolation of Maine and stress of the pandemic test it even further.
Why I picked it up: Another recommendation from my reading twin, Susie of Novel Visits.
Shetterly gets a lot of things right here: the roller coaster cycle of emotions that the pandemic brought on, the non-linear paths that relationships take, the exhaustion of parenting young kids, the tension between year-rounders and summer people. But these same things also made this book challenging at times. I found Alice’s inconsistency, while human, to be frustrating as a reader. The girls’ bickering, while relatable and well-described, was tiring. I think the problem was that this book was too realistic. The description of the quarantine and isolation was pitch perfect – but I wanted more. I wanted a twist or an aha moment or something else unexpected that transcended the pandemic. There were a few surprises, but they came a little too late.
I have perhaps been more negative in this review than I intended. I enjoyed Pete And Alice In Maine, and I am glad I read it. Shetterly has a gift for detail, for the little expressions and gestures between couples that convey so much more, the routines of parenthood, the small betrayals and concessions that make up a marriage. Maybe the anxious tedium (tedious anxiety?) of the pandemic just caught up to me this time.
I listened to Pete And Alice In Maine on audio. Most of the chapters are narrated by Eileen Stevens, the voice of Alice, and she did a nice job with Alice’s anger, frustration and occasional hope.
Pete And Alice In Maine was the 47th book of 2023.