Maine, the northernmost state in New England is known for its beautiful woodland, mountain, and coastal landscapes, lobster harvesting, lighthouses, and rich history. The state has a rich literary history as well, beginning with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and continuing on to today where numerous writers call Maine home or choose to set there novels in the beautiful and still quite wild state. Come with us today as we take a closer look at some of the best books set in Maine for our Top Books by State series.
It by Steven King
There is probably no better-known Maine writer than Stephen King. Throughout his long and prolific career, he has set many of his books in Maine towns of his own invention, such as Salem's Lot, Castle Rock, and Derry. The Maine in King's fiction looks the same as the real Maine, but with a dark undercurrent of evil that runs through it. Many of his books reference towns and events that happened in his previous books, and certain characters appear again and again, lending the impression that all of the horrible things that happen in his novels are connected. Stephen King's Maine is vast and terrifying. One of King's most famous books set in his fictional town of Derry is It, a novel in which an ancient evil terrorizes the town and a group of children manage to defeat it once only to find themselves forced to battle it again as adults. The following passage hints at the evil found in Derry and how the children manage to escape it:
Best not to look back. Best to believe there will be happily ever afters all the way around- and so there may be; who is to say there will to be such endings? Not all boats which sail away into darkness never find the sun again, or the hand of another child; if life teaches anything at all, it teaches that there are so many happy endings that the man who believes there is no God needs his rationality called into serious question… And if you spare a last though, maybe it’s ghosts you wonder about… the ghosts of children standing in the water at sunset, standing in a circle, standing with their hands joined together, their faces young, sure, but tough… tough enough, anyway, to give birth to the people they will become, tough enough understand, maybe, that the people they will become must necessarily birth the people they were before they can get on with trying to understand simple morality. The circle closes, the wheel rolls, and that’s all there is. You don’t have to look back to see those children; part of you mind wills them forever, live with them forever, love with them forever. They are not necessarily the best part of you, but were once the repository of all you could become. Children I love you. I love you so much. So drive away quick, drive away while the last of the light slips away,drive away from Derry, from memory… but not from desire. That stays, the bright cameo of all we were and all we believed as children, all that shone in our eyes even when we were lost and the wind blew in the night. Drive away and try to keep smiling. Get a little rock and roll on the radio and go toward all the life there is with all the courage you can and all the belief you can muster. Be true, be brave, stand. All the rest is darkness
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Elizabeth Strout's 2010 Pulitzer Prize winning novel in stories, Olive Kitteridge, conveys the life of the titular character though the point of view of herself as well as the people of her coastal town, Crosby, Maine. The book is as much a story of small town life as it is of Olive herself. Throughout we see descriptions of life in coastal Maine, of the harsh winters, the forest, and the ocean which for so many is a source of income. In the following passage, Olive's husband Henry recalls some of his favorite aspects of life in Maine and how they made up some of the best moments of his life:
For many years Henry Kitteridge was a pharmacist in the next town over, driving every morning on snowy roads, or rainy roads, or summertime roads, when the while raspberries shot their new growth in brambles along the last section of town before he turned off to where the wider road led to the pharmacy. Retired now, he still wakes early and remembers how mornings used to be his favorite, as though the world were his secret, tires rumbling softly beneath him and the light emerging through the early fog, the brief sight of the bay off to his right, then the pines, tall and slender, and almost always he road with the window partly open because he loved the smell of the pines and the heavy salt air, and in the winter he loved the smell of the cold.
And here, Olive, who always found Henry sentimental, after his death and having fallen in love with someone new, finds herself admiring some of the same things Henry once appreciated about their town:
And then as the little plane climbed higher and Olive saw spread out below them fields of bright and tender green in this morning sun, farther out the coastline, the ocean shiny and almost flat, tiny white wakes behind a few lobster boats--then Olive felt something she had not expected to feel again: a sudden surging greediness for life. She leaned forward, peering out the window: sweet pale clouds, the sky as blue as your hat, the new green of the fields, the broad expanse of water--seen from up here it all appeared wondrous, amazing. She remembered what hope was, and this was it. That inner churning that moves you forward, plows you through life the way the boats below plowed the shiny water, the way the plane was plowing forward to a place new, and where she was needed.
Stay tuned! Next month, we'll take a look at some of the amazing books that come from the great state of Michigan!