STRANDED

When 14-year-old Janette Riker leaves with her family from their home in Missouri for a new life in the Oregon Territory in 1849, she never dreamed she would be the only survivor of that arduous cross-country journey.

Based on a true story, author Matthew Mayo’s historical novel, “Stranded,” has won both the Spur Award and the Wrangler Award for best western fiction in 2018, and deservedly so. Mayo lives in central Maine and has written numerous works of western fiction and nonfiction.

With a novelist’s license, Mayo cleverly creates young Janette’s diary to tell her dramatic story, a remarkable tale of surviving alone in Montana’s Rocky Mountain wilderness, through a bitterly cold winter with scant supplies and diminishing hope and only her courage and determination to sustain her.

Janette accompanies her father and two brothers on a solo wagon trek, leaving Missouri in June 1849, arriving at the Rockies in September. The men go off hunting for buffalo, leaving Janette in charge of the wagon, oxen and camp, but the men never return. She is alone and frightened and can’t believe the depth of her predicament. Her options are to stay there and hope for their return or go on alone. She decides to stay.

She records her daily activities, hopes and fears in the diary, revealing her to be a smart, resourceful and strong-willed young woman. Throughout the autumn and winter her focus is on shelter, food and fire, using the fieldcraft taught by her father. And she must fight off wolves, a grizzly bear, a mountain lion, injury, illness and the debilitating despair of physical and mental starvation.

In the spring of 1850, Janette’s salvation comes in a form she never expected, giving her a second chance at life.

LAKEWOOD THEATRE

The history of the performing arts in Maine is rich with big dreams and big names, and no place has had more of both than the Lakewood Theatre, near Madison.

The Lakewood Theatre is “the official state theatre of Maine and the oldest continually running summer theatre in the country,” as Skowhegan historian Jenny Oby so wonderfully details in this fun history. And the Lakewood is still in business.

Oby’s debut history is the latest Maine book in the “Images of America” series by Arcadia Publishing. Oby has added fascinating narrative to her collection of 181 black and white photographs to tell the Lakewood’s story from its start as a vaudeville playhouse in a ramshackle amusement park in 1898 to its present day prominence as a summer theatre center.

As she reveals, the Lakewood hosted summer stock theater on the “straw-hat circuit” in the 1920s, with resident acting companies staying all summer at the theater’s complex of cottages and dining hall. Pay for actors then was just $20 a week (less room and board). Between 1925 and 1941, plays and musicals were put on as auditions prior to moving to Broadway.

The package system began after World War II, when shows brought in their own actors, director and support staff for a week, then moved on. And the Lakewood offered resort amenities — theater, lodging, food, golf, tennis and boating on Lake Wesserunsett.

Best are Oby’s portrayals of famous actors who played at the Lakewood — Humphrey Bogart in the 1930s before he became a Hollywood movie star, along with Groucho Marx, Ethel Barrymore, Dorothy Lamour, Sally Rand, Lloyd Bridges, Carol Burnett and Betty White. She also highlights locals like set-designer Charles Perkins (43 years) and treasurer Mildred Fogg (54 years) who never saw a complete play.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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