LIFE AMONG GIANTS
By Bill Roorbach
Algonquin Books, 2012
352 pages, $24.95
ISBN 978-1-61620-076-3
 
In 1970, 17-year-old David “Lizard” Hochmeyer is a horny teenager playing football and lusting after high school girls and an untouchable prima ballerina. He also just watched his father and mother shot to death by a cold-blooded killer. And revenge is just one thing on David’s mind.

“Life Among Giants” is Maine author Bill Roorbach’s eighth book. His acclaimed works include the novel “Big Bend” (2002) and the nonfiction “Temple Stream” (2006). But his new book is by far his best.

This complex and beautifully written novel cleverly blends mystery, love and romance with obsession, guilt and family secrets so dark and tangled that David finally discovers: “Our secrets gave us power. And then they took our power away.”

After his parents’ murders, David sees curious connections between his father and sister with their celebrity neighbors —the renowned ballerina, Sylphide and her mysteriously dead rock star husband. It will take years of handwringing angst, quirky and tumultuous love affairs, a stellar football career at Princeton, with the Miami Dolphins and his own celebrity status as a successful restaurateur before David is convinced the connection is both real and deadly — especially for him.

Forty years later the killer and his partner come into David’s restaurant and the meaning is clear. Their visit is not a coincidence, someone sent them and David now knows why.

David must now decide what to do about this new threat. How he resolves the problem is a brilliant depiction of suspenseful drama and moral dilemma, with a stunning conclusion that is shocking and oddly satisfying.

Roorbach is in rare form with this cynical criticism of fatuous stardom, lost opportunities and a man’s desperate decision to finally make things right.
 

MOUNT HOPE CEMETERY OF BANGOR, MAINE: THE COMPLETE HISTORY
By Trudy Irene Scee
The History Press, 2012
284 pages, $26.99
ISBN 978-1-60949-337-0
 
Cemeteries would seem to be a subject Stephen King would write about, but author Trudy Scee offers an intriguing history of the oldest rural public cemetery in Maine, the Mount Hope Cemetery of Bangor.

This is a meticulously detailed history from Mount Hope Cemetery’s creation in 1834 to today, loaded with a dizzying array of names, facts and figures, as well as fascinating anecdotes of cemetery lore.
Scee lives in the Bangor area, and is a historian and instructor at Husson University. She has written numerous local histories, including the excellent history of the City of Bangor, “City on the Penobscot” (The History Press, 2010).

Mount Hope Cemetery is the second oldest incorporated cemetery in the United States (after Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass., 1831). It can also boast of having the oldest Civil War memorial, the Soldiers Monument, from 1864. Most interesting,  as Scee points out, the cemetery was established to not only provide a respectful burial ground, but also a public green space, beautifully landscaped with trees, shrubs, flowers, ponds, brooks, stone bridges and ornamental fencing — a place of beauty and peaceful serenity, worth a visit even today.

Scee carefully describes the cemetery’s creation by the 14 men of the Bangor Horticultural Society, telling how the cemetery was designed, maintained and financed through stockholders and subscription sales of burial plots. She also tells of early problems, like an unreasonable (and unsuccessful) demand for a railroad right-of-way across the property and how fencing was needed to protect the land from “marauding bovines.”

Best, however, are her anecdotes about folks buried there. A U.S. vice president and a gangster repose there along with wealthy and eccentric Rufus Dwinel, who believed if he was buried above ground in a sarcophagus he would prevent his wife from inheriting his fortune.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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