‘That Old Cape Magic’ by Richard Russo
Book Release date: August 4, 2009
This novel offers an intriguing point of view with regards to relationships, especially those between married couples, their children, and the contrasts between adults as parents and partners.
Russo shows us throughout the novel, with the use of clever flashbacks how things change and develop within the married couples due to time and age. This deeply intriguing novel clearly depicts the ups and downs of relationships between couples and their offspring as time goes by.
After the death of his parents, Jack Griffin who had vowed never to follow his parents’ steps by fleeing to Los Angeles and becoming a screenwriter does just that. With Joy his wife he moves east and becomes a professor of film, following the same career his parents had.
As Jack carries the ashes of his parents in an urn in the trunk of his car, he thinks back to past events that have marked his life and that of his parents. He ponders on the relationships his parents had and on his own, whether it is all worthwhile or whether he should break up his marriage.
Jack is overwhelmed with doubts, for he looks back at the past at all his wishes and aspirations, which have come true, unfortunately, he feels neither satisfied nor happy, how could this have happened?
He has left screenwriting and moved to the Cape in an old house full of character and has become the snobby professor he never dreamed he would become. Now Jack feels that all he had wished for has completely overwhelmed him and the past has overcome the present rendering the future terribly at stake.
As Jack carries around first his father’s then both his parents’ ashes in the back of his car, trying to find a good spot to scatter them, he ponders on his marriage, his daughter’s wedding, and his parents too.
The presence of his mother is hilarious as she calls him repeatedly on the phone when she is still alive and actually comes back from beyond the grave as a capricious ghost to haunt Jack’s state of mind.
This novel is a deep introspection reflecting families and marriages, with Jack confronting his parents’ failed marriage and finding himself at the same standpoint. He finds himself face to face with what he thought he wanted, realizing that maybe it was not really the right way for him.
The narrative style is impeccable with moments of hilarity and comedy alternating with sadness and heart-breaking tenderness, topped up with an ending that surprises all beyond all expectations.
An unbelievingly intense and emotional novel by this Pulitzer Prize-winning author.