REUNION AT RED PAINT BAY
By George Harrar
Other Press, 2013
278 pages, $14.95
ISBN 978-1-59051-545-7
 
What is the truth? Is it fact? Is it reality? Is it what you believe? Or, is it simply what you want to believe? Tough questions — and newspaperman Simon Howe doesn’t have any good answers.

“Reunion at Red Paint Bay” is Maine author George Harrar’s riveting psychological thriller about a solid family man forced to confront his past behavior, its dire consequences and his common rationalization of what he believes to be the truth.

Harrar is an award-winning short story writer and this is his third novel. This suspenseful tale is both a clever, subtle mystery and a vivid social commentary on how people really think of themselves when faced with a moral dilemma and how they explain away memories they would rather forget.

Simon Howe is the editor of a weekly newspaper in the coastal Maine town of Red Paint Bay. Happy in his life as a husband, father and newspaperman, he is puzzled by a series of recently received anonymous postcards, each with a terse, cryptic, threatening message. Then, when a mysterious stranger comes to town, small curious events occur that frighten Simon and his wife.

The stranger is a stunningly malevolent stalker with an insidious plan and the creepy ability to move smoothly and easily in the community without attracting any attention — even at Simon’s 25th high school reunion party. When he finally challenges Simon and his wife about a dark secret (each in a different, truly scary manner), the stranger ignites fear, anger and mistrust, resulting in glaring exposure and desperate measures.

This is a gripping thriller, utterly convincing and alarming, as people struggle to justify past deeds, weigh the costs of the truth and decide that maybe a half-lie is just as good.
 

THE BARNS OF MAINE:  OUR HISTORY, OUR STORIES
By Don Perkins
The History Press, 2012
187 pages, $21.99
ISBN 978-1-60949-526-8
 
Many books have been written about Maine’s rich and varied agricultural history — from hardscrabble colonial farms to today’s modern organic farms — but few books have ever been written about barns.
Barns? Who would’ve thought there would be enough interesting material about barns for a book? Well, Sebago Lake author Don Perkins knows better, and the result is this fascinating history of Maine barns covering architecture, construction, function, restoration and anecdotal tales of past and present owners.

“The Barns of Maine” smartly reflects Perkins’ love of woodworking and timber framing as well as his interest in old barns, a project well-written and clearly illustrated with drawings and photographs. He has traveled throughout the state exploring old barns, capturing their history and the memories of folks who know them well.

As an admitted “barnologist,” Perkins describes the various types of barn construction found in Maine, from English barns and Yankee barns to high-drive bank barns and Amish barns. With the eye of a skilled builder, he tells how hand-hewn and sawn timber barns were built in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, construction techniques, materials used and how they were laid out inside to maximize function and efficiency for livestock, manure handling and storage of grain, hay and produce.

Perkins uses a lot of construction jargon like jowled post, tying joint and purlin roof, but the reader will find a wealth of intriguing information about barns and their uses.  He tells of the unique way shipbuilders built barns in Harpswell and about the Temperance Barn (c.1830) in Bridgton, built without any rum consumption during construction.

Learn the real reason cupolas were put on barn rooftops, why farmers spread layers of salt in the hay stored in their barns and the valuable uses of horse urine in manufacturing.

— Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.