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The Lobster Chronicles: Life on a Very Small Island    by Linda Greenlaw order for
Lobster Chronicles
by Linda Greenlaw
Order:  USA  Can
Hyperion, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Softcover, Audio

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

This diary of a forty-year old woman living with her parents on the Isle Au Haut off the coast of Maine, gives a new insight into the word tenacity. Her occupation, as you can guess from the title, is that of lobster fisherman. In this sometimes exciting, sometimes nostalgic, sometimes downright sad, but never boring book, the reader shares the author's feelings, her thoughts, her dreams, her aspirations, her frustrations. Linda Greenlaw, working in a man's world, manages to do it and do it well.

She shares the island with forty-two other inhabitants, some of whom she writes about - with thanks that they have not taken offense at her words or portrayals, and thrown her off the island. There is Rita, the town kleptomaniac whom everyone tries to avoid but accepts as part of their lives. And the committee that is trying to purchase the lighthouse abandoned by the Coast Guard. Their machinations are suspect to individual aggrandizement. The lack of medical attention is handled by the community as a fact of life that must be dealt with. The Postmistress, who keeps to herself but manages to run an efficient office, makes an interesting and almost ephemeral character.

Greenlaw's descriptions of how lobsters are caught and the amount of pre preparation before the traps are actually dropped, made me realize the extraordinary effort, notwithstanding the danger, that goes into providing me with a luscious lobster dinner. By the way, there is a wonderful sounding recipe of her mother's for lobster casserole, using only twelve lobsters!The author's parents seem like old stock, people who take what the world and nature hurls at them and persevere, where lesser individuals might have thrown up their hands and headed for the mainland.

It takes a strong woman to live the life she lives; one who is at peace with herself and can spend long hours at sea speaking to no one but her father (who works on her boat). And he is known to be a person with a paucity of words. Greenlaw credits her parents with instilling her values and particular outlook on life. She is a lucky woman, indeed to have had such people to guide her. My only problem with this book, at 235 pages, is that it is too short. The author writes with feeling, a large dose of humor and an honesty about herself, which is refreshing - not trying to gild the lily, just telling it like it is.

The Lobster Chronicles is Greenlaw's second book. Her first, The Hungry Ocean, which made the New York Times bestseller list, recounts her years of sword fishing. I have not yet read this book. After reading Chronicles, though, buying the author's first effort and quickly consuming it is high on my list of things to do.

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