SILENCE: A NOVEL by William Carpenter; Islandport Press, 2021; 280 pages, $17.95; ISBN 978-1-944762-88-9.


Nick Colonna is a tortured soul, an Iraq War veteran badly wounded when an IED blew up his Army vehicle and killed his two best buddies. Discharged and back in Maine, Nick is trapped in a world of PTSD nightmares, survivor’s guilt and total silence. He can see, but cannot hear, he is totally deaf.

“Silence” is the powerful new novel by award-winning Maine author and poet William Carpenter. This novel won the 2022 Maine Literary Award for fiction. He deftly tackles the painful physical and emotional trauma of a young man adrift in a confusing world where his ears can’t hear and he won’t speak, but his eyes still see and his heart still listens.

This is a story both tender and tragic, and Carpenter tells it carefully, revealing much about the human cost of war, love and resiliency, and unexpected heartfelt decisions. Nick’s family is loving and supportive, but he seeks a solitude that matches his silence. He homesteads alone as a caretaker on a wealthy family’s private island, learning satisfying self-sufficiency.

Nick makes a startling discovery on the island that transforms his life, especially when he realizes the owner’s plan to develop the island as a tourist resort will destroy his discovery. He shares his find with Julia, daughter of the island’s owner, and makes a profound (and foreshadowing) request of her. And Nick says just one word.

Julia is the only family member to oppose the island’s development, but doesn’t know how to stop it. Nick, however, has a hidden plan that Carpenter disguises so well, its unveiling is quietly subtle and deliberately final. This story proves silence is often misunderstood, for as author Alison McGhee says: “You are most powerful when you are most silent.”



WOODSQUEER: CRAFTING A SUSTAINABLE RURAL LIFE by Gretchen Legler; Trinity University Press, 2021; 288 pages, $18.95; ISBN 978-1-59534-959-0.

Satirist Will Durst doesn’t think much of the outdoors: “I hate the outdoors. To me the outdoors is where the car is.” For author Gretchen Legler, however, the outdoors is her chosen world.

“Woodsqueer” is Farmington writer Legler’s third nonfiction book, following one about a sportswoman’s life, and another about living in Antarctica at McMurdo Station. This is a collection of 32 previously published essays. Legler is an award-winning author currently teaching creative writing at the University of Maine Farmington.

Her writing talent is crystal clear, as expected with 30 years experience writing and teaching. The essays are well-crafted, vibrant and entertaining, evoking visual and mental imagery — you can feel her words in every sentence. The title comes from a word applied to someone who spends too much time in the woods, but that’s precisely where Legler wants to be.

Legler and her partner live on Three O’Clock Cat Farm, 80 acres of farm and woodland, raising goats and chickens, growing their own food, cutting firewood and learning the skills of self-reliance. She writes about the natural world of animals, trees and plants, worried that most Americans suffer from “nature illiteracy.”

She also writes honest, insightful essays about feminism, same-sex marriage and “lesbians in a heteronormative world,” as well as exploring difficult memories of her mother and father, and her own physical and emotional health.

In “The Tyrant and the Apple Tree,” she tells how her stubborn impatience nearly killed her in a ladder and chainsaw accident. “Consider the Acorn” contains her thoughts on the mystery and magnificence of an acorn. Learn how to give a chicken a bath, and why “a love affair does not always mean happiness.”

Beautiful pen-and-ink illustrations nicely compliment the words in this thoughtful and provocative collection.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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