WILD! WEIRD! WONDERFUL! MAINE by Earl Brechlin; Islandport Press, 2020; 299 pages, $16.95.

WILD! WEIRD! WONDERFUL! MAINE

At least 10 other authors have written Maine trivia books over recent years, focusing on Maine history, people, places, events, curiosities, strange happenings, wonders, legends and some hilarious and goofy anecdotes. And now Bar Harbor author Earl Brechlin has come out with his own collection of historical tidbits.

Brechlin joins the good company of authors like John McDonald, John Cole, Michelle Souliere, Gail Parker and Neil Rolde, adding his own spin to obscure Maine history in this very readable and entertaining addition to Maine trivia historiography.

As expected, Brechlin includes predictable entries on shipwrecks, fires, robberies, Moxie, Poland Spring and hermits. Best, however, are the numerous pieces of little-known history that many Mainers may not know, like the fact that Maine has 65 Mud Ponds and 22 Lost Ponds (not really lost at all), and that the town of Strong is the Toothpick Capital.

He divides the book into geographic sections so folks can travel to the Central Highlands, for example, and find the “World’s Largest Non-Stick Frying Pan” in Pittsfield (site of the “Egglympics”), or go Down East to see a 44-year-old unwrapped Hostess Twinkie on display at the George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill. Caution: Don’t sit on the Victorian Death Couch located in the Bangor Public Library.

And he has lists. The list of Maine world records reveals the Most Corn Shucked in One Minute; the Longest Tap Dance; the Largest Collection of Umbrella Covers; and the Most Pine Boards Broken with One Hand (karate-chop style).

Learn about the Maine woman who really created Social Security; about the St. George man who claims his dooryard is the center of the universe (you’ll recognize his name); and about Teddy Roosevelt’s presidential “fake news” story in 1912.

 

THE MAINE POINT by Irene Drago; Maine Authors Publishing, 2020; 310 pages, $18.95.

THE MAINE POINT 

Bath author Irene Drago won several awards for her 2017 debut novel “Daughters of Long Reach,” a historical romance spanning two centuries of Bath history and multi-family relationships.

‘The Maine Point” is the sequel to that first novel, and Drago continues with the same plot structure: families connected generations apart now set in the 20th and 21st centuries. Three of the Maine families featured in the first book reappear here in two separate year groups: 1936-1943 and 2018-2020.

The first book was strong on Maine history, especially Bath’s shipbuilding and seafaring heritage. This sequel is short on history and long on melodramatic romance, although the history is real and intriguing. In 2018 Anna Malone, a successful 37-year-old novelist and Hollywood screenwriter returns to Maine to live with her boyfriend Jake, an MDOT engineer working to restore Maine lighthouses. Their romance and career pursuits reveal clues to family connections from the 1930s and ’40s.

The strength of this story, however, is in the years 1936-1943, with Goss- and McGowan-family women leaving Maine to begin exciting new careers in New York City. Small-town cousins Penny McGowan and Stella Goss experience life in the big city, with its social and cultural expectations governing a woman’s role in business and romantic opportunities.

Both young women are naïve but smart, considerate and ambitious, qualities necessary to navigate society and the uncertainties of World War II. Penny and Stella thrive in work and love, while suffering heartache and loss.

Drago’s careful plotting allows the three family connections to slowly emerge. However, there are no villains, little action and no conflict, just a tender story of fiction and love. Perhaps Anna said it best: “History is a myth shaped by the storytellers.”

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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