• Nora Curry

Literature of the Maine Coast



It's no secret that Midcoast Maine attracts more attention than ever in the summer months, as tourists join us to discover the delights of living by the sea. Whether you're a coastal resident or a coastal visitor, if you'd like to engage with the boundary of land and water through your literature, there is an ample feast of fiction and narrative nonfiction out there to sate your appetite. From sweeping novels of life on the coast to nature meditations to true tales of lobstermen, check out the reading list below to discover a little more about life on the coast. Stayed tuned for an upcoming post about Maine mysteries and thrillers!


Fiction

The Guest Book, Sarah Blake Sarah Blake's popular 2019 novel takes place on an island off the coast of Maine. "The bereaved matriarch of a powerful early-20th-century American family makes a fateful decision that reverberates throughout two subsequent generations further impacted by racism, reversed circumstances and disturbing revelations." - NoveList

Hauling Through, Peter Bridgford "Kestrel Cove is a tight-knit community of hardworking and hard headed characters who are dedicated to catching lobsters. But there is one thing that makes the fishing town unique: the residents earnestly believe that a Russian satellite cruises overhead every night to spy on them. When Jamie Kurtz, an underachieving graduate from a nearby private college, gets a job on a Kestrel Cove lobster boat, he's closely watched and talked about, but not included. As he shares their moments of happiness and sadness, he's gradually accepted as one of their own..." - Publisher The Lobsterman of Deep Cove, Maine, Eugene Elcik

"They fish the dangerous waters in the Gulf of Maine, giving total vigilance to the weather, and the season. Lobstering is in their blood, a part of their genes, an inheritance from generations. This novel is about adventure, crime, romance, and drama that Tom Harpswell has experienced during life on the ocean. He knows the danger that lurks with every trip on the unpredictable water off Maine's coast. Like many small seacoast hamlets, the tribulations of life tragedies are graphically revealed." - Goodreads

Slipknot, Linda Greenlaw The first in a well-loved Maine Coast mystery series "Returning to the small Maine fishing community of her childhood, marine investigator Jane Bunker finds herself drawn into the case of a town drunk's death, which she finds unsettlingly linked to local disputes over fishing and paternity rights." - NoveList Hatchet Harbor: a Maine Coast adventure, Jane E. Hartman "Welcome to Hatchet Harbor, Maine, where the lobstering's good, wild blueberries dot the hilltops, and the rocky shoreline remains pristine. This tourist season, however, a cloud of mistrust hangs over the little fishing village. Love of nature collides with human greed as locals and "summer people" take sides in a brewing environmental conflict." - Amazon Red Right Returning, Charles B. McLane "Although the story begins just after World War II, it is remarkably current as it explores timeless island themes: the subtle tensions (and attractions) between islanders and summer people, the special dynamics of island life, the inevitable competition for lobsters, and how an island community adjusts to change." - Goodreads

The Weir, Ruth Moore "The Weir, written in 1943, takes place in a small island fishing village during the years before World War II, set against a backdrop of hard work and struggle. Ruth Moore, one of the great regional novelists of the twentieth century, brilliantly and authentically captures not only the characteristics of coastal Maine and its people, but using them to write a story of universal human drama featuring two primary families who feud, gossip, and struggle while being battered by the relentless tides of change sweeping over their community and their entire way of life." - Publisher

Spoonhandle, Ruth Moore "The jewel of Moore’s literary crown is “Spoonhandle,” her 1946 novel of the fictional Big Spoon and Little Spoon islands... Moore’s fictional drama of rugged independence, fishing and the tensions between island residents and wealthy folks “from away” lands in our midst during a pandemic, racial discord, and profound American and global upheaval." - Portland Press Herald

Hull Creek, Jim Nichols "Hull Creek is the story of Troy Hull, fifth generation Maine lobsterman, and his struggle to keep the family home in a small coastal town that is rapidly turning into a haven for tourists and wealthy retirees." - Publisher

"Hull Creek is a timely tale of change on the coast of Maine and the challenges it brings to the men who still seek their livelihood from the sea." - Goodreads

High Tide at Noon, Elisabeth Ogilvie This novel is the first in a trilogy. "The struggles, hardship, and joy of one woman's life on a Maine island are brought to life in this haunting and enduringly popular trilogy, the first three books of the Bennett's Island series. Elisabeth Ogilvie tells the story of Joanna Bennett and her colorful life on Bennett's Island with a sensitivity and truthfulness born of her own early years on isolated Criehaven, the real Bennett's Island." - Goodreads

Something in the Water, Peter Scott "Maine lobster fisherman Amos Coombs knows that German U-boats are hiding out along the coast by day and sinking American merchant vessels at night. Until one terrifying day, however, he is unaware that the enemy is quite literally in his backyard or that the presence of a Nazi submarine is about to change his life and those of his fellow islanders forever. More than just a war novel, this excitingly original novel presents a vivid portrayal of a community and a way of life." - Goodreads

The Pearl of Orr's Island: a story of the coast of Maine, Harriet Beecher Stowe "The rural tranquillity of the lonely, pine-girthed shores of the Maine coast is the setting for this beautiful novel of conflicting aspirations written by one of the most prolific and influential writers in American history. Here is the heartwarming story of a young girl's struggle to belong and fit in, in the face of adversity, and of her upbringing among strong women, grumpy fishermen, annoying gossips, sea captains, and the dreamlike, tempestuous landscape of Orr's Island. The Pearl of Orr's Island is one of the forgotten — but not lost — masterpieces of American literature. It reflects Harriet Beecher Stowe's awareness of the complexity of small-town society, her commitment to realism, and her fluency in the local language." - Goodreads

Harbor Lights, Theodore Weesner "Set in southern Maine, Harbor Lights follows the last weeks of lobster fisherman Warren Hudon's life. His character and passions shaped by the rough waters on which he spends his days, Warren has created a life of almost absolute isolation. But when he is diagnosed with rapidly developing cancer, he finds himself driven to make peace with his long-estranged wife, Beatrice, and their adult daughter, Marian. Told in restrained, evocative prose, Harbor Lights mesmerizes its readers with a tale of a marriage gone seriously awry and a man's growing rage that culminates in an act of passionate violence." - Goodreads The Northern Reach, W.S. Winslow Winslow's debut novel was published in March 2021.

"A grieving mother keeps vigil by the coast of her Maine community while her neighbors endure the hardships of dirt farming, bootlegging and tourism throughout the 20th century." - NoveList

Narrative Nonfiction


The Lobster Gangs of Maine, James M. Acheson "James Acheson’s detailed account of lobstering in Maine quickly dispels notions that the lobstermen is the eastern version of the cowboy, struggling alone for survival against the elements. In reality, he writes, “the lobster fisherman is caught up in a thick and complex web of social relationships. Survival in the industry depends as much on the ability to manipulate social relationships as on technical skills.” Acheson replaces our romantic image of the lobsterman with descriptions of the highly territorial and hierarchical “harbor gangs,” daily and annual cycles of lobstering, intricacies of marketing the catch, and the challenge of managing a communal resource." - Publisher Stories from the Maine Coast: skippers, ships, and storms, Harry Gratwick "The history of Maine has always been inextricably tied to its coastline. The sea first brought settlers, and the rich fishing and shipbuilding industries sustained growth. The Atlantic also connected Mainers to the rest of the world. Goods and ideas traveled the maritime routes that originated in populous Portland and more isolated places like Carver's Harbor and Deer Isle. From Searsport's sailing masters to the burning of Royal Tar, author Harry Gratwick relates the adventures of the skippers and their crews. Read about the search for the Smithy Boat and other tales from Maine's shipping lanes." - Publisher All Fishermen Are Liars: true tales from the Dry Dock bar, Linda Greenlaw "A humorous collection of true fishing tales shares the author's experiences of navigating through a mercurial storm as well as the yarns of Portland, Maine, fishermen about their funniest experiences, biggest fish, and wildest nights." - NoveList

The Lobster Chronicles: life on a very small island, Linda Greenlaw "The author details her return to Isle au Haut, a tiny Maine island with a population of seventy year-round residents, many of whom are her relatives, to describe small-town life in a lobster-fishing village." - NoveList

A Place on Water: essays, Robert Kimber, Wesley McNair, and Bill Roorbach "In a trio of wonderful long essays, three quite different writers—one a nature and outdoor writer, another a poet, and the third an essayist and novelist—let us sit in on their friendship and what draws them, inexorably, to the same small pond in Maine. Told with humor and affection, the stories in this small book will appeal to anyone who feels drawn to spend time near water." - Publisher

The Seaweed Chronicles: a world at the water's edge, Susan Hand Shetterly "An acclaimed nature writer examines the lifecycle of seaweed on the Gulf of Maine and looks at the people who farm and harvest it--and the difficult task of protecting this critical resource against forces both natural and man-made." - NoveList

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