That Old Cape Magic, By Richard Russo

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The Independent Culture

English professor Jack Griffin, the narrator of Richard Russo's amiable seventh novel, is becoming more and more like his parents and doesn't know how to stop it.

As the book opens he's on his way to Cape Cod, his father's ashes in the boot, his mother's caustic voice on the cell-phone. For Jack's dissatisfied parents, Cape Cod was where they spent "one glorious month, each summer" followed by 11 months of misery.

Forty years later, Jack still feels crowded in by their combative relationship and the ultimate disappointment of those long-awaited vacations.

Neatly structured around two weddings and a funeral, Russo's well-scripted story of mid-life crisis breezily captures the moment "when everything was predictable and yet somehow you failed to see it coming".