Woodard, Colin. Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators, and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier. New York: Viking, 2004.
Reason read: the Lobster Festival is usually held the first week in August in Rockland, Maine. Kisa and I had the pleasure of attending the festival the same year Zoe was selling her calendar. To add to the personal element of this, Zoe and I attended the same school.
To live in Maine is to subscribe and ultimately surrender to a certain way of life. It is a proud life; an independent life. Take no grief from anyone and never ask for help. As they like to say, Mainers have grit.
Woodard is redundant in places and seems to skip around some, but for the most part his book, Lobster Coast is well researched and is an accurate portrayal of a way of life. It is a thoroughly engaging historical look back at Maine’s fierce independence. From the very beginning there has been a strong distrust of strangers, well entrenched prejudices against “newcomers” and non-natives.
Confessional: It is weird to read about my community, as in the physical place and the actual people who call Monhegan home. I read the first chapter of Lobster Coast with a smirk brought on by bias. Most of the names mentioned have been in my life since I first arrived on Monhegan as a five year old child. I know much of what Woodard speaks of intimately. The places haven’t changed much. Monhegan House, Black Duck, Shining Sails, the Museum, just to name a few. And the people…! I won’t name names but someone gave me a spanking right there on Fish Beach when they caught me and my best friend trying to start a bonfire. I think I was six. Someone else tried to teach me gymnastics, and (at the tender age of ten), all I could do was stare at the dark and curly pubic hairs escaping from her too-tight leotard. Someone else handed me my first beer…
Author fact: Woodard has contributed to The Chronicle of Higher Education and was born and raised in Maine.
Book trivia: Sadly, there are no photographs in Lobster Coast.
Nancy said: Pearl named Lobster Coast as one “reader-friendly micro-histories of the lobster industry” (Book Lust To Go p 136). I would say it is more of a history of the state of Maine, with a focus on lobstering.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “The Maine Chance” (p 135).
King, Stephen. Lisey’s Story: a Novel. New York: Scribner, 2006.
Reason read: in honor of going to Maine for two weeks I decided to read a Maine author. Everyone knows Stephen King.
Many view this work of Stephen King’s as a “different” kind of horror story, and while I found that to be true, it didn’t hook me the way other King stories have. There was a great deal of terminology repetition that should have kept me questioning what it all meant, but really didn’t (constant reference to blood-bools, smucking, smuckup, strapping it on, SOWISA, to name a few…).
Widow Lisey Landon has a stalker who is after her dead husband’s papers. As a well known and prize winning author, his unpublished manuscripts could be worth a fortune. We don’t know how Scott died, but we do know he survived an assassination attempt and Lisey has other memories too terrible to recall. Her horrible thoughts are repeatedly cut off in mid-sentence, a tactic designed to keep the reader in suspense, but ultimately ended up annoying this particular reader. In the winter of 1996 something happened; something that was too terrible to conjure completely. Lisey stops herself from thinking through her memory.
It is true that damaged people seek out other damaged people to form a warped kind of kinship. It is only natural that Scott, a product of unspeakable abuse and horror, should gravitate towards Lisey whose own sister practices self-mutilation (and ultimately falls into a catatonic state). Lisey sees all the warning signs before marrying Scott but decides to ignore them. The good moments far outweigh the bad. Isn’t that always the way in abusive relationships?
King is an expert at hinting at danger to come. There is always something ominous lurking around the corner, just out of sight. Hints, whispers, winking in the dark like strands of smoke from an arson’s fire…
Author fact: King said this is one of his favorites and always pictured it as a television series. Rumor has it, a network is doing just that.
Book trivia: King always wanted to make Lisey’s Story into a serial television show. It was made into a mimi series starring Julianne Moore.
Nancy said: Pearl says she “frequently suggest[s]” Lisey’s Story as a horror book that isn’t too horrible. She also claims it is a good book for book groups, as well (Book Lust To Go p 136).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “The Maine Chance” (p 135).
Jewett, Sarah Orne. The Country of the Pointed Firs. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1994.
Reason read: July marked the first time I have spent more than ten days on Monhegan since 1992. I wanted to celebrate Maine with a simple book.
It could take you a day to read The Country of the Painted Firs. A mere 88 pages in length, you could spend just an afternoon with Ms. Jewett’s novel. That being said, I urge you to take more time with this sweet little book. This is portrait of turn of the century coastal Maine living at its simplest and most honest. Jewett illustrates a time when hospitality, good manners, friendship and community mattered most. While there is not much of a plot, the characters are carefully crafted. Today, the people you meet throughout all of Maine are just as colorful and hard working as they were in Jewett’s fictional town of Dunnet Landing. The statement, “One trade helps another” as one character says, is as true today as it was in 1896 when Country of the Pointed Firs was first published.
Author fact: Jewett was from South Berwick, Maine. Her full name was Theodora Sarah Orne Jewett, named for her father, Theodore.
Book trivia: Henry James and Ursula K. LeGuin both reviewed The Country of the Pointed Firs and declared it a masterpiece.
Nancy said: Pearl said Country of the Pointed Firs “is the perfect choice when you are feeling overwhelmed with the weight of the contemporary world” (More Book Lust p 57), and “a classic that has kept its charm” in Book Lust To Go (p 135).
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Cozies” (p 57), and from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “The Maine Chance” (p 135).
Kennedy, Kate. More Than Petticoats: Remarkable Maine Women. Guilford, CT: The Globe Pequot Press, 2005.
Reason read: to satisfy a Portland Public Reading Challenge category: Maine history.
More Than Petticoats is a series of biographies focusing on historically significant women by location. I believe every state in the country has a book and some states, like California, have a second volume. For the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge, I read More Than Petticoats: Remarkable Maine Women. Thirteen biographies of some women you might know and others you may not recognize: Marguerite-Blanche Thibodeau Cyr, Kate Furbish, Abbie Burgess Grant, Lillian M.N. Stevens, Sarah Orne Jewett, Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby, Lillian “La Nordica” Norton, Josephine Diebitsch Peary, Florence Nicolar Shay, Marguerite Thompson Zorach, Florence Eastman Williams, Sister R. Mildred Barker, and Margaret Chase Smith. From 1738 – 1995. I love Maine’s rich history. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Sarah Orne Jewett, Franklin Pierce. I could go on and on.
As an aside, my sister takes pictures of a water fountain close to her library. I now know the history of the girl: the Women’s Christian Temperance Union dedicated the fountain to Lillian M.N. Stevens. Very cool.
Confessional: I want to visit Abbie Burgess Grant’s grave. According to Kennedy, Grant is buried in the Forest Hill Cemetery in South Thomaston. Her final resting place should be easy to find. Her headstone is the one with the lighthouse.
I also want to visit Sarah Orne Jewett’s house in South Brunswick. I hear it’s open to the public. I should just go on a Maine Women vacation.
Child, Lee. Persuader. Read by Dick Hill. Grand Haven, MI: Brilliance Audio, 2003.
Reason read: to finish the series started in July in honor of New York becoming a state…
I think this has to be my favorite Reacher story simply because it takes place, for the most part, outside of Portland, Maine. The ocean is always present so right away you can bet Reacher has to tangle with it at some point in the story. Of course he does. [As an aside, my favorite section of Dick Hill’s narrative is when Jack struggles with the ocean for a second time, not learning his lesson the first time around.] But, back to the plot. Reacher gets sucked into a compromising position, this time by his own accord. Ten years ago, a critical investigation went sideways and someone under Reacher’s military command was horrifically murder. Up until present day Reacher had thought the killer was dead by his own hand. He witnessed a demise he thought no one could survive..and yet ten years later here is proof the nemesis not only survived, but is thriving. Revenge is Jack’s motive.
Of course, Reacher wouldn’t be Reacher without an eye-roll inducing romance. This time it’s with a federal agent and I agree with other reviewers when they say it feels like Child threw in the relationship with Duffy because it is simply part of the formula for Reacher’s modus operandi. It was short lived and kind of silly.
As an aside, exactly how is Reacher running around with an Anaconda firearm in his pants? Pun intended?
My other gripe? Lee child has obviously never tried to tie his hair back with a rubber band. If he had, he would know it hurts like hell to take it out! No self respecting woman (or man-bunned hipster) would reach for a rubber band. If a real hair tie wasn’t available, a bread tie or a pencil or even a piece of string would do.
Last gripe. For the most part Child has stayed away from cheesy lines but he let this one slip by, “Gravity had no effect on her perfection.” Gag.
Favorite line – I have to include this line because it’s the first one in the book, “The cop climbed out of his car exactly four minutes before he got shot” (p 1). If that doesn’t grab your attention!
Author fact: Rumor has it, Child spent a lot of money on the publicity campaign for this book.
Book trivia: This is the seventh Reacher book in the series and the last one on my Challenge list. A more specific to the book piece of trivia – the Persuader is a type of firearm and not a reference to Reacher’s personality.
Nancy said: Pearl suggested finishing the Reacher series with Persuader.
Actually, Pearl had more to say about Persuader than any other book. She admits, with nothing else to read, she picked it up out of boredom, but by the first line she was hooked.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Lee Child: Too Good To Miss” (p 41).
Corson, Trevor. The Secret Life of Lobsters. New York: Harper Collins, 2004.
Reason read: Rockland, Maine holds a Lobster Festival every year during the first week of August. I have been once.
I originally put off reading The Secret Life of Lobsters thinking it was going to be bogged down with dry research statistics. Instead, I found a warm, and humorous yet fact-filled account of not only the life of lobsters but of the men who make their livelihood trying to catch them, Corson included. Chapters alternate between scientists and their research and lobstermen of Little Cranberry Island, Maine, and their struggle to farm the sea. There were things I knew (the cod is the biggest natural predator of lobsters and lobster is loaded with sodium) and lots more I didn’t know, like there are 52 species of Crustacea and the sex life of a lobster is brutal!
Confessional: I grew up eating lobster like it was chicken. Every so often my father would barter welding services for a few pounds of lobster for “his girls” while he himself couldn’t touch the stuff (allergic), so the entire time I was reading The Secret Life of Lobsters I was willing myself to not make comparisons to Monhegan’s way of life.
Quotes I just had to quote, “The problem was that the male lobster appeared not to have a penis” (p 46), and “Quite possibly, lobsters were sensing each other and sending signals – “I beat you up last night, remember?” or “Would you liketo mate with me, I’m about to undress?” – by pissing in each other’s faces” (p 196).
Author fact: Corson is a marine biologist and a third generation lobersterman so he knows his stuff!
Book trivia: The Secret Life of Lobsters does not contain any photographs or maps. I was bummed not to see the latter. It would have been fun to track some of the places Corson mentioned.
Nancy said: Pearl says Secret Life of Lobsters is about “what’s known, and not, about the lobster…” (Book Lust To Go p 135).
BookLust Twist: from book Lust To Go in the chapter called “The Maine Chance” (p 135).
Various. Island Voices II: Poetry of Monhegan. Stone Island Press, 2014.
Reason read: a Christmas gift from my mother.
It is hard for me to read anything Monhegan related from a critical point of view. My mind instantly goes to what I know and love about the island, and if the poetry captured even a smidgen of that memory, I am instantly biased. Biased and definitely devoted. I have to wonder how someone completely ignorant of Monhegan would read these poems. Where would be his or her focus? What would stick in their minds as relevant or real?
Further complicating my review are my varying relationships with the poets themselves. True, Catherine Morocco and Marilyn Ringer are complete strangers, although I am sure I would recognize them by sight. Kate Chappell, Iris Miller, and Frances Vaughn I only know by long standing history and name. While I am more acquainted with Jan Bailey, Mary Kordak, Jan Kornbluth, & Joanne Scott, in truth K.K. Iannicelli and Judith Ponturo are island mothers. They could be my island mothers.
So. To review Island Voice II. I simply can’t. When I read about the ocean’s melodic drumming, I also hear Kathi’s wheelbarrow coming up the hard packed dirt road. When I see words about the salt, salt air I also see Judy humming in Winter Works. On the page the gulls may laugh overhear but I see Jan’s secret smile as another tourist tries on a wrestling mask. Queen Anne’s Lace blown bent backwards in Mary’s garden but all I see is her radiant smile. I admit it, I read the words but see the home.
August was a little of this and a little of that. Some people will notice I have made some changes to the book challenge – some changes more noticeable than others. For starters, how I review. I now add a section of why I’m reading the book. For some reason I think it’s important to include that in the review. Next, how I read. I am now adding audio books into the mix. I am allowing myself to add an audio book in “trapped” situations when holding a book and keeping my eyes on the page might be an inconvenience (like flying) or endanger someone (like driving). I’m also making a effort to avoid wasting time on books I don’t care for (like Honore de Balzac). One last change: I am not as stringent about reading something within the month. If I want to start something a little early because it’s right in front of my face then so be it.
What else was August about? August was also the month I lost my dear Cassidy for a week. I spent many a night either in an insomniac state or sitting on the back porch, reading out loud in hopes the sound of my voice would draw my calico to me. The only thing it yielded was more books finished in the month of August. She finally came home one week later.
Anyway, enough of all that. I’ll cry if I continue. Onto the books:
I started the month by reading and rereading Tattoo Adventures of Robbie Big Balls by Robert Westphal. This was the first time I read and reviewed a book after meeting the author. I wanted to get it right. I also wanted to make sure I was an honest as possible about the situation. Everything about this review was unusual. For the challenge:
- After You’ve Gone by Alice Adams ~ I read this in three days and learned a valuable lesson about Adams’s work: read it slowly and parse it out. Otherwise it becomes redundant.
- Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin ~ I read this in ten days, tucking myself in a study carrell and reading for an hour everyday.
- Fahrenheit 541 by Ray Bradbury ~ an audio book that only took me nine days to listen to.
- Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum ~ read with Wicked by Gregory Maguire. I took both of these to Maine and had oodles of car-time to finish both.
- We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich ~ this was probably my favorite nonfiction of the challenge. Rich’s Maine humor practically jumped off the page. I read this to Cassidy.
- The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder ~ I read this in three days, again hiding myself away in a study carrell.
- Ten Hours Until Dawn by Tougis ~ another audio book. I’m glad I listened to this one as opposed to reading it. Many reviewers called it “tedious” and I think by listening to it I avoided that perspective.
- The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson ~ I read this in two days (something I think I thought I was going to get to in June).
- All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque ~ I read this in honor of World War I ending. I also read it in one night while waiting for Cassidy to come home.
- The Lives of the Saints by Nancy Lemann ~ also read in one night. In honor of New Orleans and the month Hurricane Katrina rolled into town.
- Kristin Lavransdatter: the Cross by Sigrid Undset ~ finally put down the Norwegian trilogy!
For the Early Review Program with LibraryThing:
- The Most Memorable Games in New England Patriots History by Bernard Corbett and Jim Baker. This was supposed to be on my list a year ago. Better late than never.
- Sex So Great She Can’t Get Enough by Barbara Keesling. This took me an inordinate amount of time to read. Guess I didn’t want to be seen in public with it.
Rich, Louise Dickinson. We Took to the Woods. Kingsport: Kingsport Press, 1942.
I love it when a book is so fun to read you don’t notice the time. You simply start reading and suddenly it’s three hours later and you are practically finished with the entire thing. Such is the case with We Took to the Woods. Rich is a fantastic storyteller. What makes her story even more appealing is the fact it’s a true story (complete with photographs) and Rich has a great sense of humor. Maine humor, if you will. It’s a great combination.
Probably the most fascinating element to We Took to the Woods is how current it is 70 years after being published. You can read about living in a cabin deep in the woods of Maine today and find it eerily similar to how Rich described it back then. A simple way of life is a simple way of life. I guess you could say simplicity barely changes. Rich divides her chapters into the most frequently asked questions she has had to answer over the years: “But how do you make a living?” “Aren’t you ever frightened?” and “Do you get out very often?” to name a few. It’s as if she wrote the book to shut people up about her unique lifestyle, living in the far Northern section of Maine in the middle of nowhere.
Favorite lines (and there were a few of them): “I see no point in being modest about the things you know you do well” (p 47), “You can neither remodel nor ignore a thing as big as winter” (p 62), and “It’s unreasonable, I know; but some fears lie beyond reason” (p 76). Here are two that illustrate her sense of humor: ” I can also run my household as badly as I please, and our house guests can sun-bathe in the altogether without hindrance” (p 307) and “I find her very tiresome at close range, but at a distance I rather admire her spirit” (p 307-308).
AS an aside – Rich writes about the hurricane of 1938 and how it felled enough trees to make a giant log jam. I find it interesting I am also reading about another natural disaster, the blizzard of 1978 – forty years later.
Reason read: We Took to the Woods takes place in Maine. Maine has an annual lobster festival in Rockland every August. A coastal celebration is enough reason to read about the Rangeley woods.
Author Fact: Louise Dickinson Rich didn’t start off as a writer. She was a teacher first, but always wanted to write a book. I’m glad she did.
Book Trivia: We Took to the Woods was Rich’s first book. She went on to write another one that has been on my bookshelf for years.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “The Maine Chance” (p 135).
postscript~ I doubt I will forget We Took to the Woods anytime soon. Coincidentally, it is the book I chose to read aloud to Cassidy when she went missing her first night in the woods.
Field, Rachel. Hitty: Her First Hundred Years. New York: Dell, 1957.
When I first learned of the premise for Hitty I cringed. It has gotten so hard for me to read outlandish stories. The suspension of belief is getting much harder to suspend these days. But, I am happy to say Hitty was different.
In a nutshell Hitty: Her First Hundred Years is about the first hundred years of a doll’s life. Made out of well-seasoned mountain-ash wood, Hitty is a sturdy, made to last doll. She is given to a small girl named Phoebe Preble sometime in the early 1800s. The Preble family makes their home outside of Portland, Maine and Phoebe’s father is a whaling captain. When we first meet Hitty, she is a resident of an antique store and has set out to write the memoirs of the first hundred years of her life. And what a life the first hundred have been! During her time with the Preble family she was abandoned in a church, kidnapped by crows, taken out to sea where her ship first springs a leak and later catches on fire; she becomes lost at sea, found again only to be given away as a heathen idol, and finally, dropped somewhere in India – never to be seen by the Preble family again. Hitty (whose real name is Mehitabel) goes on to be owned by a succession of little girls, some kind, some not. There are great periods of time when she is stored in an attic trunk or wedged in couch cushions. One hundred years goes by very quickly for both Hitty and the reader. (I was able to read the whole book in less than three hours.)
My only complaint – Hitty admitted to not knowing what a train was yet in India she recognized a cobra on sight.
Favorite line, “Which only goes to show how little any of us can tell about our own futures” (p112). I like this line because it’s in reference to not knowing when Hitty will return to Maine. I can relate.
The other element I liked about this book is the timelessness of it. Someone “threatens” to wear a nose ring when she is older. I can picture the same “threat” being made today. Another example: later Hitty attends a concert of a famous singer. The throngs of people crowding around the celebrity is very much like the crush of crowds at any concert today.
Author Fact(s): Field was originally from Stockbridge, MA and moved to Maine when she was 15 years old. She died when she was only 48.
Book Trivia: Hitty: Her First Hundred Years won two awards, the Newbery Award when it was first published in 1929 and the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award many years later.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the introduction (p x) – mentioned as a book Nancy Pearl read as a child.
Vacation! Vacation! Vacation! We have some crazy things planned. I simply cannot wait! Camping, hiking, music, craft fair, parade, family, friends, fireworks, boats, the ocean, mountains, swimming, lobster festival, Natalie, Monhegan, food, books and more books.
- Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’Brien ~ taken off the list since I didn’t finish Master and Commander. Boo.
- Eyes of the Amaryllis by Natalie Babbitt ~ in honor of July being the most popular month to visit the ocean
- Firewall by Henning Mankell ~ in honor of July being the best time to visit Sweden
- Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes ~ in honor of the first test of the atomic bomb
I sincerely doubt I will get to the last book. For one, it’s over 800 pages long and for another, it’s at the end of the list. But, more importantly, it’s about the making of the atomic bomb. On vacation? I don’t think so!
I act like I’m going away for a month. Maybe that’s not a bad thing….
For the Early Review Program (LibraryThing) I have an interesting situation. A book I was supposed to receive over a year ago arrived June 23rd. So, for July I will be reviewing What’s a Mother (in-law) to Do? by Jane Angelich.
Russo, Richard. Empire Falls. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 2001.
It took me forever to read Empire Falls. Aside from having several different storylines each character is artfully developed in full. People and places are vividly described to the point of comfortable familiarity for the reader.
Miles Roby is a soon-to-be divorced father who seems to have lost all passion for life. He has been working at the same restaurant, the Empire Grill, for twenty years. He suffers through constant, obnoxious reminders that his wife is marrying someone else as soon as his divorce from her is final. He tolerates a mischievous, thieving father who is always telling him how not to be a loser. He squirms under the thumb of a woman who has ruled him, his family and the entire town of Empire Falls for generations. Miles’s only solace is in his daughter, Christina (Tick, as she is affectionately known by everyone). Despite everything Miles has going against him throughout the story he remains a graceful, if not tragic, hero.
Even though Miles Roby is the main protagonist of Empire Falls the entire town comes alive by Richard Russo’s artistic and skillful writing. Like any small community Empire Falls has its fair share of quirky people and Miles Roby’s personal life is not only know by everyone else, but is commented and cared about by all.
Favorite lines: “…both men had pushed their conversations until their words burst into flame rekindling age-old resentments, reopening old wounds” (p 115), “One of the odd things about middle age, he concluded, was the strange decisions a man discovers he’s made by not really making them, like allowing friends to drift away through simple neglect” (p 261), and “Janine knew from experience that it was a lot easier to forget a thousand things you wanted to remember than the one thing you wanted to lose sight of” (p 271).
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called, “New England Novels” (p 177).
Reid, Van. Daniel Plainway, or, the Holiday Haunting of the Moosepath League. New York: Viking, 2000.
One of the reasons why I love reading books that take place in Maine is because I can identify with most of the locations. Another reason is that sometimes I get to reconnect to a place I haven’t thought about (or heard about) in years. Such is the case with Veazie, Maine.
How to describe this book? I think I’m a little thrown off because Daniel Plainway is part of a series (of which I didn’t read the first or even second book). It’s like coming into a discussion when it’s two-thirds over. Daniel Plainway is a Maine country lawyer who is trying to solve the mystery of the disappearance of a neighboring family. When a portrait of his neighbor’s daughter is rediscovered, Daniel begins a journey that changes his life. Along the way he meets the members of the Moosepath League and that’s when the fun really begins.
Reid writes with hilarity. One of my favorite scenes is when there is an attempted robbery of the Moosepath League members. The robber, young and inexperienced, fumbles with the gun, slips on the ice and snow, and somehow hands his gun over to a member of the Moosepath League, knocking himself and the others down. The League members do not realize they are being robbed and try to give the man back his gun and offer him money for his troubles – for they think they are responsible for knocking the young man over. “He considered Thump’s card through a blur of tears, realizing that he had just tried to rob three men, and in return they might have saved his life” (p 51).
Another great scene is when the members of the Moosepath League are trying to deliver a letter. There is great confusion as to exactly who the letter should go to. In the end, after they think they has successfully did their duty, they do not know how to leave, “There mission completed (however unpleasantly) the members of the club wondered, in collective silence, if they should be moving on to other things, primarily any other things that would take them some distance from the present scene” (p 92).
Favorite singular lines: “Gerald Pinkney and Daniel Plainway had known each other since their days at Colby, and Daniel had always thought of Gerald as a slightly antagonized bee” (p 16). I just love the imagery of this “slightly antagonized bee.”
“Those quickest to kindness are also quickest to forget when they are kind” (p 94).
BookLust Twist: In Book Lustin the chapter, “Van Reid and the Moosepath League: Too Good To Miss” (p 199).
Rice, Luanne and Joseph Monninger. The Letters. New York: Bantam, 2008.
Not on any Challenge list. Not a must read from a friend. Not a gift. Not an Early Review book from LibraryThing. Not even something I would ordinarily pick up on my own. Nope. I read The Letters simply because part of it takes place on Monhegan Island. There I said it. I’m a sucker for my island. Put it in print and you have a loyal reader. Such is the case of The Letters.
It’s a creative concept for a storyline: two parents torn apart by the accidental death of their son. The father (Sam) is obsessed with seeing the place where his son (Paul) perished. Driven by that obsession he makes a pilgrimage into the Alaskan wild where his son’s plane crashed. The mother (Hadley) artistic and alcoholic, find herself in equal solitude on Monhegan Island, a tiny (586 acre) island off the coast of Maine that really does exist. These parents are as far away from each other physically as their marriage is spiritually. Their story consists of letters written on the brink of divorce – volleying blame back and forth. Through these letters, not only does the anguish of losing Paul wring itself out, but histories are revealed. Grief is only a fraction of the bigger picture.
Being a one-time Monheganer I enjoyed Hadley’s letters from the island. I often seek solace on its rocky coastline ten miles out to sea. Her description of Cathedral Woods was dead on. I was disappointed she couldn’t stay 100% true to factual details, though. To my knowledge the island has never been home to squirrels or raccoons and the deer population was annihilated (for lack of a better word) in 1999. I suppose Rice and Monninger to beef up the animal population of the island for added charm. Or something. But, my biggest disappointment came when Hadley fell on the rocks. I don’t think I will be ruining the plot by revealing this, but Monhegan doesn’t have a clinic that someone can just pop into to get ace bandages, ice packs or even aspirin. The island operates on a beautifully orchestrated volunteer system. It’s not as formalized as it used to be thanks to a lack of funding, but when someone is hurt or falls ill on Monhegan there is an urgency felt by everyone. The entire community will band together to bring a fallen tourist, a mid-seizure epileptic, the about-to-give-birth pregnant woman, to safety. I feel Rice and Monninger missed an opportunity to emphasize how similar Sam and Hadley’s rural landscapes really are, despite being at opposite ends of the country. They both fall ill and while their ailments are different the lack of convenient treatment is the same.
Lines that said something: “I hated the drinking because it erased the woman that I loved” (p 35).
“It’s when you start preferring email with a man five miles away to talking to your husband that you know you have a problem” (p 54).
“It shrieks when its not howling” (p56). Talking about Monhegan wind. Amen to that.
My sister asked me if I was ready for next week. Am I ready? I have been mentally ticking down the days, practically the hours until next week. Too bad it’s the end of next week that I have to wait for. The wait can kill me.
I’ll start off by making the drive to Portland. Part of me wants to load up the billion ME/CA only returnables and finally make a return on them (think of all the nickels I’ll get! They might pay the parking meter…) Then maybe I’ll be able to get through the basement…
Then it’s a boat trip to Peaks. I’m tempted to bring running gear because the run ways out there are so beautiful. It’s a crazy mix of ocean, pines, pavement, big luxury houses, small shacks, horses, wildflowers, dirt and sea salt air. Different scenery than what I see everyday and different is good. Very good.
Babysitting the Bebe. I’m sure my sister is worried. I haven’t dealt with a child under the age of 30 in over a decade. There’s a voice in my head that reasons, “how hard can it be?” while another counters, “there’s a reason you don’t have one yourself.” Oh yeah. So, I’m looking forward to being a cool aunt trying to stay calm. I’m only half kidding.
Then. Then. Then! There is Monfreakinhegan. CanNOT wait to get there. It’s been almost a year. A full fukcing year. I tell anyone who will listen I am never doing that again. Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day & Columbus Day. Those will be my dates next year. Count on it.
I am oh so ready.