Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Country of Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett

genre: fiction

Our unnamed narrator arrives at a small, coastal fishing village in Maine at the beginning of summer. In search of a quiet place to write and relax, she soon finds herself in the interesting position of belonging but also being an outsider.  Meeting the natives of the town, making a place for herself among the fisherman and widows, our narrator's lovely voice speaks truth not only about the people she interacts with but also about the human condition at large.

There isn't a plot, per say.  Not action and climax and aftermath.  But each chapter isn't really a short story either, since they all roll around and intertwine with each other.  The landlord, the old sea captains, the grandmothers living on isolated islands in the bay - each character is richly drawn and lovingly rendered.  What you also get is a firm sense of life in such a Maine village, the accents, the passions, the loss.  Nearly everyone is elderly.  Truly.  I can think of maybe two scenes with children but this isn't a story about the young.  It's about the aged, about looking back at what you've had and taking stock of what you've got.  There is a glorious scene at a family reunion that rang with so much clarity, so familiar and authentic that it made me smile while reading, I couldn't help myself.

If you enjoyed Cranford, you might enjoy this.  It isn't funny like Cranford is, but it runs in a similar vein, with a strong sense of community and place. The language is just painstakingly beautiful, I found myself highlighting in at least every chapter.  I'm so glad I found this one.  It definitely makes a Maine of long ago feel alive again.

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