Saturday, October 21, 2023

Quick Reviews of Two Great Maine Novels: THE ROAD TO DALTON and PETE AND ALICE IN MAINE


by Shannon Bowring
Europa Editions, 2023
250 pages


Summary (from goodreads):

In most small towns, the private is also public. In the town of Dalton, one local makes an unthinkable decision that leaves the community reeling. In the aftermath, their problems, both small and large, reveal a deeper understanding of the lives of their neighbors, and remind us all that no one is exactly who we think they are....

The Road to Dalton offers valuable understandings of what it means to be alive in the world—of pain and joy, conflict and love, and the endurance that comes from living.

My thoughts:

 If you find character-driven novels about small town life appealing, this is your book! Set in the northernmost reaches of Maine, the locals touched my heart and their stories will stick with me for a very long time.

This is a beautifully written debut  novel and I will happily read whatever Shannon Bowring chooses to write next. According to her website a sequel to Dalton, entitled Where the Forest Meets the River, is forthcoming from Europa Editions. Hooray!
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐






by Caitlin Shetterly
Harper, 2023
256 pages 


Summary (from goodreads):

A powerful and beautifully written debut novel set against the backdrop of the chaotic spring of 2020 that intimately explores a fractured marriage and the struggles of modern parenthood. Reeling from a painful betrayal in her marriage as the Covid pandemic takes hold in New York City, Alice packs up her family and flees to their vacation home in Maine. She hopes to find sanctuary—from the uncertainties of the exploding pandemic and her faltering marriage. Putting distance between herself and the stresses and troubles of the city, Alice begins to feel safe and relieved. But the locals are far from friendly. Trapped and forced into quarantine by hostile neighbors, Alice sees the imprisoning structure of her life in his new predicament. Stripped down to the bare essentials of survival and tending to the needs of her two children, she can no longer ignore all the ways in which she feels limited and lost—lost in the big city, lost as a wife, lost as a mother, lost as a daughter and lost as a person. As the world shifts around her and the balance in her marriage tilts, Alice and her husband, Pete, are left to consider if what keeps their family safe is the same thing as what keeps their family together.

My thoughts:

This is a pandemic novel. The virus is an ever-present force, and the novel ends before the vaccine is introduced.

I find family dramas irresistible and this  one is really well done. But be aware of potential triggers - besides the pandemic itself, there is a marriage in crisis, and a flashback to a premature birth and resulting trauma.

The author sets this novel in her home state of Maine. Naturally, tension between Mainers and the covid escapees is palpable. Shetterly skillfully navigates a variety of difficult subjects, and the result is a propulsive, tight debut novel which I could not put down.
⭐⭐⭐⭐šŸ’«




14 comments:

  1. Road to Dalton is on my list and I look forward to that one. Have not heard of the other book but will check it out. I want to read another book by Valerie Perrin after reading and enjoying Fresh Water for Flowers but I haven;t bought another of hers yet.

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    1. Tina - I've had Three by Valerie Perrin in my hands at the bookstore twice, but won't let myself buy it until I read Fresh Water for Flowers... which is still on my shelf. Library books with deadlines keep distracting me!!

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  2. The "covid escapees" have put house and land prices around here through the roof, and still seem to be buying.

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    1. Nan - The same thing happened in Florida. I can't believe how much real estate prices increased! I'm still thankful we bought our house there in Oct 2019 just before covid. It was pretty dramatic in CT, too. Our good friends in Greenwich sold the house they'd lived in for over 30 years to a young family from NYC... sight unseen!

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  3. I've read two or three "covid novels" now, and I'm still adjusting to that topic in fiction. Before they started appearing, I wondered how many authors would incorporate the subject in new novels and whether or not some of my old favorites would participate. Then I read a couple of them and found myself struggling with them because they triggered so many terrible 2020 memories for me. I'm starting to think it may be a little too soon for me, but if one of my favorite writers tackles the subject, I know I'll be reading their book.

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    1. Sam - I know what you mean - 2020 was such a horrible year! Both our NYC daughters escaped in the very early days (hours really) and spent 6 months with us in our FL condo, where we already lived with our third adult daughter, as our house was being remodeled. I try to focus on how wonderful it was to spend that time with our adult children and block out the rest. This is the first real covid novel I've read (it was in the background for Tom Lake) and I was okay with it. It was interesting to read about how other families fared. Don't think I'd seek out another, but if a favorite author came out with a covid novel...

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  4. Both of these novels sound like my kind of books, and I hope to get to them in the next few months. I'm also adding the book Tina mentioned (Fresh Water for Flowers). Thanks, ladies!

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    1. Les - I cannot resist a book set in Maine and both of these are such good reads! I bought Fresh Water for Flowers with a birthday gift certificate a year ago and still haven't read it. Diane rated it very highly, too.

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  5. 2 really great sounding books. I have heard of the Road to Dalton, but not the ohter one.

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    1. Helen - I'll give just about anything set in Maine a second look, but these were both great books!

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  6. I'm a bit curious to know why Bowring's novel is published by Europa; don't they usually do international titles? It sounds like a good one. I've also been listening to a Maine novel This Other Eden. It must be a year for Maine novels!

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    1. Susan - I wondered the same thing! Most of Europa's offerings are in translation or by foreign authors and their mission is to promote cultural understanding (or something to that effect)... yet here is an American debut author with a blurb from Richard Russo on the cover.
      Maine is definitely having a moment! I'll look forward to your thoughts on Harding's novel.

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  7. These both sound so good! Both new authors to me, as well. Adding to TBR!

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    1. Laurie - I thought both novels were excellent, though understand some readers will find triggers with Shetterly's book.

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