THE CHRISTMAS STAR
By Christopher Fahy
Overlook Connection Press, 2012
121 pages, $12.95
Irish writer Robert Lynd (1879-1949) once wrote: “Christmas Day in the company of children is one of the few occasions on which men become entirely alive.” And rich, self-absorbed New York real estate tycoon Russell Dodge is in for a big surprise.
With an obvious nod to Ebenezer Scrooge and “A Christmas Carol,” Maine author and poet Christopher Fahy tells the warm, charming story of a man whose sudden misfortune reveals an opportunity he never knew existed. Fahy has already written 15 books of fiction, poetry and stories, and although this one is not a particularly original theme, this well-crafted story and its message are still relevant and powerful.
Dodge is a wealthy man who buys whatever he wants, a rapacious land developer who never considers the impact of his greed. He has just bought Sheffield Peak, a pristine mountain wilderness in northern Maine, intending to turn the area into a massive resort and amusement park.
Two days before Christmas he closes the deal, but wrecks his car on a mountain road during a snowstorm. Injured, he is rescued by Lee and Doris Hansen and their granddaughter, Ruby. The Hansens are the peak’s caretakers, living on land they do not own.
Snowbound with the Hansens in their sturdy cabin, Dodge becomes intrigued by their happy and self-sufficient lifestyle, their gracious care and the joyful innocence of 6-year-old Ruby. The Hansens don’t know that Dodge intends to destroy all that.
However, three days spent with this family teaches Dodge that his own life is empty of satisfaction and purpose, that money means little if it is not used for good work, and that he has one chance to find his own peace and happiness. The ending is sappy and predictable, but the result is very satisfying.
THE WICKED GOOD BOOK: A GUIDE TO MAINE LIVING
By Stephen Gleasner
Down East Books, 2012
120 pages, $24.95
In Stephen Gleasner’s new book, he makes two bold statements right up front. One is true, the other not so much.
He claims this is “a book for those who never want to grow up” (true) and that this is “a nostalgic, practical and irreverent guide to getting the most out of living in the Pine Tree State” (not so true).
The Appleton author’s 35 short chapters cover a wide variety of subjects from raising chickens and growing blueberries, to climbing Mount Katahdin and racing go-carts. He tells how to do things, find things, make things and understand things, but most of the subjects are not unique to Maine. Still, there is humor, fun and even some practical information in these pages.
He tells of the four different kinds of moose and how to avoid moose trouble (Don’t look like a moose!), how to build a survival shelter in the woods, how to split firewood, how to fish for squid and make calamari, how to properly pan for gold and how to make fire like a caveman.
Several chapters are not funny or particularly useful to folks in Maine or anywhere else, like how to burn rubber on a roadway (while ruining the car’s tires, transmission and brakes) and how to enjoy a good old fashioned rat killing.
However, one can learn to make a Moxie rocket (think potato cannon), how to build a canoe with tape and glue, why it is not a good idea to eat poison ivy no matter what anybody says, about Ogunquit’s gold rush of 1960, how to make a super-duper apple flinger (but why?) and which Maine town hosts the annual International Rock Skipping Contest.
— Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.