In Adrienne Miller's seductively rich first novel, âThe Coast of Akron,â the reader gets to explore the eccentric and somewhat disjointed Haven family. To call them dysfunctional would be too much of an undeserved clichÃ©. Dysfunctional families usually can still function on a somewhat normal level, all the while fooling their friends and neighbors. The Haven's don't even try.
Lowell Haven, the father, is most likely in his mid-fifties and has been with his lover, Fergus, for over 30 years. They live in an opulent 65-room Tudor-style mansion in Akron, Ohio. Lowell is a famous artist, known for his self-portraits, who suddenly quit his art 5-years before. Fergus is the independently wealthy one, having made his fortune turning inherited land into shopping malls. He is also a socially reserved and shy hypochondriac who is always in fear of Lowell leaving him for someone or something better.
Thirty years previous, Fergus' ex-best friend, Jenny, married Lowell and together they had a daughter, Merit. For a while, the four of them played house together, but Jenny soon left, taking Merit with her. Merit has since grown into a mild-mannered, slightly hippie-ish young women. She is married to an anal-retentive engineer named Wyatt and is helping to raise his young daughter, Caroline.
Merit grudgingly visits her father and âUncleâ Fergus every once in a while, but has slowly been withdrawing from him and his overly eclectic ways. Fergus feels that if Merit would become more a part of Lowell's life, then perhaps Lowell could find his muse again and be able to paint. When Fergus decides to throw a lavish dinner party to lure Merit home, he sets off a chain of events that won't necessarily go how he wants them to.
In "The Coast of Akron" Adrienne Miller's portrait of a family is at once disarming, amusing, heartbreaking and riveting. Her ingenious debut effort is one that should not be overlooked.