NOTES ON THE LANDSCAPE OF HOME by Susan Hand Shetterly; Down East Books, 2022; 187 pages, $22.95; ISBN 978-1-68475-029-0.


At the end of nature writer Susan Hand Shetterly’s new book, “Notes on the Landscape of Home,” she offers a thought from American naturalist Aldo Leopold (1187-1948):  “When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

Leopold’s quote might have been better located at the start of the book, because Shetterly presents a collection of 32 essays that explore her sense of community not just as a place, but as the people, the land, the wildlife, woodlands and shoreline — the community we all share no matter where we live.

Shetterly lives in the small town of Surry, Maine (near Trenton), a community she loves and tries to explain as only a writer can with gentle thoughts, “learning how to manage a life that was both practical and good for the spirit, and exploring what was left of the wild in this cutover land.”

Her essays offer commentaries on the night sky, the wonder of an old apple tree, the creation of a 2,200-acre land trust, saving alewives and salamanders, along with careful thoughts on marine conservation such as reducing commercial fishing’s wasteful “by-catch.”

Shetterly also uses frequent references to famous folks like Thoreau, Audubon, E.B. White and Marsden Hartley to illustrate her points, a literary and artful potpourri of words and thoughts. One of the best essays is “Leaving the Land,” a tender story of an old farmer generous with his time and knowledge, buried on his farm, “settling into it forever.” Her essay “Interesting Times” tells how she handled the isolation of pandemic quarantine with memories of events and relationships long overlooked, reading and listening to old LPs (Remember those?).


Also read about the importance of whale poop and the delightful difference between walking and sauntering.

THE OUTHOUSE IN WINTER by John Leggett; DeWitt Studios, 2022; 381 pages, $14.95; ISBN 978-1-7923-3048-3.


About those pesky formative years, American novelist Flannery O’Conner (1925-1964) once wrote: “Anyone who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.” And 12-year-old Anthony Romano has already learned enough for any five kids.

“The Outhouse in Winter”is Falmouth author John Leggett’s fourth novel, about a street-wise New York City kid mixed up with dopers, pimps, cops, assassins, social workers, foster parents, U.S. Marshals and a group of good kids out at Cross Lake in northern Maine in the summer of 1959.

This is an ambitious effort with a complicated, unconvincing plot, doubtful characters, and too long by a hundred pages. Still, Anthony’s coming-of-age adventures are exciting, if unbelievable, as the boy wrestles with the demands of loyalty, responsibility, trust and friendship while trying not to get killed by an alligator or a hit man.

In NYC, Anthony runs afoul of the law and goes through the social welfare system, but not before he gets involved with a high-priced law firm that does much more than just file appeals (think the 1983 movie “The Star Chamber” with Michael Douglas). He’s suddenly the little pal of a trio of killers who like Anthony and treat him like a pet. His own legal troubles land him with a kind, considerate foster family (retired U.S. Marshal and his wife) and Anthony gets to spend the summer at a Maine lake.

The outhouse has two meanings: one refers to a real stinky outhouse the summer kids use as an initiation protocol for new kids; the other meaning is much more sinister and involves people with guns.

Skip the business with the alligator (in a Maine lake?) and stick with Anthony and the decisions he makes that will affect him forever.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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