RIVER TALK

By C.B. Anderson

C&R Press, 2014

223 pages, $16

ISBN 978-1-939196-46-3

Writers of short stories would do well to remember poet Robert Browning’s sage advice: “Less is more.” Too many short-story writers forget that their stories are supposed to be succinct, focused and short. Fortunately, author C.B. Anderson doesn’t have that problem.

Anderson was born and raised in Maine and has won numerous awards for her short fiction. This collection of 17 previously published stories shows why those awards are so well deserved.

The stories in “River Talk” explore the frailties of human nature, the pain of marriages and family relationships gone sour, and the impacts the resulting anger, blame and heartache have on loved ones — especially children. Don’t expect any humor here, for there is none. Instead, readers will discover the uncomfortable reality that may expose them, or the sudden recognition that they know people just like those in these stories.

Some stories tell of failed marriages and awkward separations. Others tell of personal and moral weakness. A few poke holes in the ideals of romance and love.

In “The Dancing Teacher,” 62-year-old Lenore plays piano and teaches dance to children. When her husband of 41 years takes the dog for a walk, it’s a surprise when she realizes he is not coming back.

In “Two Falls,” a refugee Somali woman makes great effort to assimilate into American society, working hard and making friends, but her disaffected husband has other ideas. In “Taken,” two adult brothers compete for the attention of a woman, and the loser finally understands that “Life plays out while you’re not watching.”

Other stories include a mother re-examining why she’s a member of a polygamous cult, and an Iraq war veteran is angry at everything and everyone — but a friend has it much worse.

HIDDEN HISTORY OF MIDCOAST MAINE

By Patricia M. Higgins

The History Press, 2014

160 pages, $19.99

ISBN 978-1-62619-365-9

Pundit Stephen Leacock is an honest man who admits: “I never realized there was history, close at hand, beside my very own home. I did not realize that the old grave that stood among the brambles at the foot of our farm was history.”

Fortunately, Maine has clever local historians, like Patricia Higgins, who tell about obscure Maine history — stories that reveal much about the character of Maine and its people.

Higgins lives on the Maine coast and this is her first book, a collection of eight surprising historical events most folks have never heard of, events that proved Leacock was right — we often don’t know our own local history as well as we should.

These stories range from colonial times to World War I, and include: how Mainers helped the Pilgrims survive at the Plymouth Colony; how two Maine-built sailing ships earned dubious honors in World War I; an ugly and dangerous dispute with the state of Georgia over slavery in 1837; and General Peleg Wadsworth’s capture by redcoat raiders after a furious gunfight at his home in Thomaston and his later miraculous escape in 1781.

One of the most interesting episodes is the tragic story of Maine congressman Jonathan Cilley, a Thomaston native caught up in the archaic and deadly honor code of dueling in 1838, killed in a political dispute of silly insult and allegation. Even Henry Clay, the Great Compromiser, played a shameful role in Cilley’s death as an advocate of the “customary murder” of dueling.

Best, however, is “Jefferson Davis’ Last Respite,” Higgins’ wonderful narrative vividly describing the soon-to-be President of the Confederacy’s recuperative vacation in Maine in 1858, where the Mexican War hero and famous orator was warmly welcomed by Maine politicians and the general public.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

 

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.