Friday, June 8, 2012

The Lobster Chronicles: Life on a Very Small Island by Linda Greenlaw

After 17 years on the deep-sea catching swordfish, Linda Greenlaw decides to go home to the small island of Isle Au Haut, Maine and try her hand at trapping lobster with her father as her partner.  She tells of life on the island with a winter population of less than 50; of fighting for fishing rights with ‘mainlanders’; of living with her aging parents and her yearning for a family of her own.

Her stories are heartfelt and often hilarious.  Following are a few excerpts that I especially enjoyed.

“Too warm to fall and hug the ground, yet too cool to rise, the steam hung in the air, a condensed mist as thick as melted pearls. “Pea soup,” that’s what old-timers would call this wet, raw oyster world of fog. No, I thought, as I made my way down the dock, this was not Carl Sandburg’s fog that came in “on little cat feet.” This fog had arrived in Stonington, Maine, driving a Mack truck.”

“I don’t know if there is such a thing as a “reading addiction.” But Mom gets nervous when she gets low on reading material. Years ago I mentioned to my mother that two of her bathrooms were out of toilet paper, and the third was on its last roll, to which she replied, “I’m going out to buy books on Friday. I’ll pick some up then.”

After describing her father and Uncle Charlie taking hours to intricately measure and cut a hole to install a stove, she goes on to say, “Charlie’s beauty is in his attention to the smallest of details. Dad, too, has impeccable manners, and is quite deliberate and punctilious in all aspects. My father is so methodical in both word and deed that he would surely drive the average amateur home repairman mad with frustration. The two old men work well together because they share an overzealous enthusiasm for being neither overzealous nor enthusiastic. Dad and Charlie take “measure twice, cut once” and multiply it by a factor that is astronomical.

I, on the other hand, am the prime example of the roughshod slam-banger, having learned a great deal of impatience from my best and oldest friend, Alden Leeman. Had Alden and I taken on the chore of installing a new stove in my folk’s house, we would have cut three or four holes through the wall for the vent by now, and all of them would have been wrong. (Not just wrong, but way off.) Where my father required a jigsaw, Alden would need a chain saw; my father, sandpaper, Alden an ax.”

Her stories feel genuine, true and just plain enjoyable.  I really loved the book.

4 stars (Rated PG – for language.)

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