There’s no place like home
Having lived on Cape Ann my entire life, I have been particularly interested in reading about my hometown or areas on the North Shore of Boston. It’s always fun to see local references while in the middle of a great book.
Here are some of my favorites:
The Last Days of Dogtown by Anita Diamant
Set on the high ground at the heart of Cape Ann, the village of Dogtown is peopled by widows, orphans, spinsters, scoundrels, whores, free Africans, and “witches.” Among the inhabitants of this hamlet are Black Ruth, who dresses as a man and works as a stonemason; Mrs. Stanley, an imperious madam whose grandson, Sammy, comes of age in her brothel; Oliver Younger, who survives a miserable childhood at the hands of his aunt; and Cornelius Finson, a freed slave. At the center of it all is Judy Rhines, a fiercely independent soul, deeply lonely, who nonetheless builds a life for herself against all imaginable odds.
The Good House by Ann Leary
Hildy Good has reached that dangerous time in a woman’s life – middle-aged and divorced, she is an oddity in her small but privileged town. But Hildy isn’t one for self-pity and instead meets the world with a wry smile, a dark wit and a glass or two of Pinot Noir. When her two earnest grown-up children stage ‘an intervention’ and pack Hildy off to an addiction centre, she thinks all this fuss is ridiculous. After all, why shouldn’t Hildy enjoy a drink now and then?
But as the story progresses, we start to see another side to Hildy Good, and to her life’s greatest passion – the lies and self deceptions needed to support her drinking, and the damage she causes to those she loves. When a cluster of secrets become dangerously entwined, the reckless behaviour of one threatens to expose the other, with devastating consequences.
The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea by Sebastian Junger
It was the storm of the century – a tempest created by so rare a combination of factors that meteorologists deemed it “the perfect storm.”
When it struck in October, 1991, there was virtually no warning. “She’s comin’ on, boys, and she’s comin’ on strong,” radioed Captain Billy Tyne of the Andrea Gail from off the coast of Nova Scotia. Soon afterward, the boat and its crew of six disappeared without a trace.
The Perfect Storm is a real-life thriller, a stark and compelling journey into the dark heart of nature that leaves listeners with a breathless sense of what it feels like to be caught, helpless, in the grip of a force beyond understanding or control.
The Lone Voyager by Joseph E. Garland
Like countless Gloucester fishermen before and since, Howard Blackburn and Tom Welch were trawling for halibut on the Newfoundland banks in an open dory in 1883 when a sudden blizzard separated them from their mother ship. Alone on the empty North Atlantic, they battled towering waves and frozen spray to stay afloat. Welch soon succumbed to exposure, and Blackburn did the only thing he could: He rowed for shore. He rowed five days without food or water, with his hands frozen to the oars, to reach the coast of Newfoundland. Yet his tests had only begun.
So begins Joe Garland’s extraordinary account of the hero fisherman of Gloucester. Incredibly, though Blackburn lost his fingers to his icy misadventure, he went on to set a record for swiftest solo sailing voyage across the Atlantic that stood for decades. Lone Voyager is a Homeric saga of survival at sea and a thrilling portrait of the world’s most fabled fishing port in the age of sail.
WWII Army Nurse June Houghton Sullivan: A Life Story by Gunilla Caulfield
June Houghton Sullivan grew up during the Great Depression. Despite a semi-chaotic upbringing, she became a registered nurse and set out to serve as a wartime nurse. Serving at the 120th Station Hospital in Britain, June witnessed the horrors of war and the heavy price that many young men paid for their country. After returning from the war, she continued to work as a hospital nurse, as well as serve as outreach librarian at the Rockport Public Library. After over seventy years, she is still a nurse. A touching, dramatic, and inspiring true story, June’s tale of life, love and war will keep readers mesmerized from the very beginning.
Lisa Ryan is the Assistant Children’s Librarian. She has worked at the Sawyer Free Library for twelve years and is currently working on her MLS at Simmons College.