VACATIONLAND

By Nat Goodale

Bowditch Press, 2013

236 pages, $14.99

ISBN 978-0-9898406-0-6

Stories about the conflicts between folks “from away” who move to Maine and want to change things here — “we need to save these people from themselves” — and Maine locals who like things just the way they are and resent anyone’s interference with their lifestyle are common and popular with Maine readers.

Jim Nichols’ “Hull Creek” in 2001, K. Stephens’ “The Ghost Trap” in 2009 and Miriam Colwell’s “Contentment Cove” in 2006 are several of the best. Now, however, Nat Goodale offers his version of the conflict in his self-published novel, “Vacationland.”

This is Goodale’s second novel, with a contemporary setting on the Maine coast in the vicinity of Lincolnville and Islesboro in Penobscot Bay. His tale pits Donny Coombs, a taciturn native Maine lobsterman (against wealthy newcomer neighbors who want to push him off his land), a snooty, elitist parent (who hates his guts) and a drug and booze-addled fishing rival (who wants to kill him). But at least the fishing is good.

The heroes and villains here are pretty much stereotypical, but Goodale’s plot treatment, snappy dialogue and surprising twists make this an interesting and entertaining read.

What Donny’s enemies don’t know is that his somewhat shady background has provided him with resources they cannot match. Along with his patient deliberation, careful planning and some unexpected help from his salty college student girlfriend, Donny’s foes are in for some very unpleasant moments. Donny doesn’t go looking for trouble — he tries to get along with everybody. But you can only push Donny so far before he pushes back — hard.

This is not great literature, but Goodale does an excellent job vividly describing the economics of fishing versus tourism, the dynamics of lobster wars and the continual clash between rich outsiders and locals.

BILLY BIG EARS AND BOB THE BULLY

By Francine McEwen

Maine Authors Publishing, 2013

28 pages, $10.95

ISBN 978-1-938883-43-9

Bullies like to scare and torment others because it makes them feel good. The one thing bullies fear the most is when the tormented stand up to them, no longer afraid.

“Billy Big Ears And Bob The Bully” is Manchester author Francine McEwen’s clever story about two boys — one the bully, the other his victim — and how they found a way to accept their differences and become good friends. Illustrations are provided by Maine artist Thomas Block.

Billy is a smart little boy, but he has big ears, wears glasses and is clumsy at games and sports. All the kids call him names, but Bob is his worst tormenter. Bob is unhappy and insecure, the product of a miserable home life.

One day, after a particularly nasty confrontation with the bully, Billy meets Angie, his guardian angel. She offers advice and help in dealing with Bob, but it will take two more incidents before Billy can get through Bob’s false front. Angie the Angel also influences Bob, making him realize what a jerk he’s been. Parents and other adults offer positive influence. The two boys finally reach a truce which develops into a solid friendship.

This story, for ages 5-10, has a happy ending but the reality is that bullying in school is far more painful and insidious than portrayed here. The story certainly does have a valuable lesson: “They want us to learn how to solve our own problems and take care of each other.”

For more substantive reading on the subject of bullying, see Cape Neddick author Katherine Mayfield’s nonfiction book, “Bullied: Why You Feel Bad Inside And What To Do About It” (Maine Authors Publishing, 2013).

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.


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