Every summer the Maine Humanities Council sponsors Read Me Maine, a statewide summer reading experience. This year’s selection was made by Lily King, Maine author (Writers & Lovers, Euphoria, Father of the Rain), who chose the two books by Maine authors, fiction and non-fiction, for our reading pleasure. The fiction choice is The Vigilance of Stars by Patricia O’Donnell. The non-fiction choice is a memoir, Roughhouse Friday, by Jaed Coffin.
I was fortunate to be able to read both these books at the same time, and found them to both be quiet yet strong books, in their own way. Although Jaed Coffin is a Brunswick author, this takes place in Alaska, chiefly in Sitka, where Coffin found himself living and working when he was a young man, tutoring and teaching in a local high school by day, and spending his spare time in a boxing gym. But this is not really a book about boxing, so don’t let the subject matter turn you away, if that’s not your thing. It’s more a book about a young man finding himself. Full of honesty and self-doubt, this book will get under your skin, as Coffin comes to terms with his parents’ marriage and subsequent divorce, and his relationship with both of his parents, as well as his own journey as a half-Thai American man. But the book is rich with the characters he finds in Sitka, as well as the landscape.
Patricia O’Donnell’s book takes place in Maine, specifically in Portland and on a lake somewhere in Maine, which makes it fun to recognize familiar places in Portland. The focus of the book is on a pregnant young woman and her disinterested in fatherhood ex-boyfriend, and their various parents and lovers (the real person William Reich, an Austrian psychoanalyst who lived in the Rangeley area, makes an appearance in a more historical segment). The writing is beautiful and mesmerizing, and while the plot is not gripping, I did find myself moving quickly through the book, and greatly interested in the characters, wondering what would happen to them, and hoping for a good outcome.
Summer is over, but you can still find these wonderful books in our island library.