AND POISON FELL FROM THE SKY: A MEMOIR OF LIFE, DEATH, AND SURVIVAL IN MAINE’S CANCER VALLEY by Marie Therese Martin; Islandport Press, 2022; 196 pages, $18.95; ISBN 978-1-952143-39-7.


In 1962 environmentalist Rachel Carson (1907-1964) warned us: “Every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception to death.” And nobody listened. For three decades, 1960s-1980s, Terry Martin and her husband tried to warn the people of Rumford, Maine of the deadly dangers of toxic paper mill pollutants. And nobody listened.

“And Poison Fell From The Sky” is Martin’s powerful and provocative memoir of growing up and living in Rumford, breathing in the toxic cloud of chemical pollutants produced by the local paper mill, watching friends, neighbors and her husband die from exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. Martin, now a widow, a registered nurse and an environmental activist is still sounding the alarm about the deadly effects of mill-producing dioxin and 23 other toxic chemicals in the air, water and soil of the Androscoggin River’s “Cancer Valley.”

The memoir also includes sad descriptions of a fractured childhood and an unhappy marriage to an abusive doctor, but the real focus is on her awakening to the deadly effects of chemical contamination in her town. And Martin is unsparing of her criticism of paper mill bosses and corporate shills who dismissed any connection between their pollution and cancer, as well as town and state officials who ignored evidence in favor of corporate greed, tax revenues and local paychecks: “Breathe it in — it’s the smell of money.”

Her vivid descriptions of the smoke, smell, stink, sludge and waste disposal are graphic and disturbing: The Androscoggin River was used as a “floating landfill and toxic waste dump all in one.” Shunned by family, friends and co-workers, Martin never gave up, but the pollution continued. Carson and Martin were right all along.



British pundit J.B.S. Haldane (1892-1964) once perceptively quipped: “A fairly bright boy is far more intelligent and far better company than the average adult.” And that would apply to Alex Harrington, age 12, as he tries to figure out “The Mystery of Lake Kanakondah.”

This is author Karel Hayes first book for teen readers (juvenile fiction). She is also a skilled watercolor artist and illustrator, and creator of the “Visitor” series of children’s books. Here, she offers an exciting mystery complete with clever clues, suspense, action and a fun plot that includes a ghost, a sea monster and a really nasty bad guy. The story is a bit fanciful, but it’s still a very

THE MYSTERY OF LAKE KANAKONDAH by Karel Hayes; Down East Books, 2022; 222 pages, $14.95; ISBN 978-1-68475-040-5.

entertaining yarn.

Alex is a smart kid, curious, considerate, and not immune for the fright of things he cannot understand or explain. When his parents announce that vacation will be at the family cabin at Lake Kanakondah, Alex is worried. A ghostly apparition beseeches him to “Save Kanakondah,” which is scary enough, but he also knows there’s a land dispute there between his father and a menacing crook.

At the lake Alex learns his grandfather died in a suspicious cabin fire years ago. His father explains the history of the lake (which does not appear anywhere on the Internet), and the ugly dispute over land ownership. Then Alex thinks he sees a mysterious lake creature out in the water. He and his sister make friends with two other kids, Seth and his sister, Maizy, and they have some fun together. But trouble lurks nearby.

The villain appears, threatening the family, and the kids uncover the real story of Lake Kanakondah and its hidden secrets. Only trust, friendship, courage, devotion and two new friends can save the lake and the kids from a murderous plan.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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