— MONDAY BOOK GROUP —
We meet the second Monday of the month from 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. • Group Leader: Patrice Wehner
BY AMY BELDING BROWN
Review by Patrice Wehner
Our book for April, Emily’s House by Amy Belding Brown, provided us an opportunity to peer into life at the Dickinson family Homestead in Amherst, Massachusetts, in the latter half of the 19th century, from the perspective of Margaret (Maggie) Maher, the Dickinson’s maid for nearly 30 years. Brown initially set out to write about the life of Emily Dickinson. However, as she pursued her usual meticulous research prior to writing the novel, she became fascinated by Maggie, and ultimately, Brown reconstructed life inside the Homestead through the eyes of this strong-willed Irish immigrant who became a trusted member of the household, growing into a compassionate companion and fiercely protective advocate of the reclusive Emily, “the Myth of Amherst.”
Emily’s House is an engaging tale of Maggie’s reflections on her life with the Dickinson family, from being sought for employment by the influential Edward Dickinson, to navigating the complicated relationships of Emily’s siblings, and to preserving Emily’s writing and legacy as well as the actual Dickinson homestead itself. At the same time, she must balance her loyalty to Emily with her own personal allegiances to her family, her faith, and her native Ireland.
Whether you are a follower of Emily Dickinson or know little about her, Amy Belding Brown has provided a well-researched and engaging story that educates and entertains. Fans of historical fiction set in New England may also want to check out Brown’s other novels, Mr. Emerson’s Wife and Flight of the Sparrow.
The Shape of Night
BY TESS GERRITSEN
Review by Patrice Wehner
Pandemic or not, books transport us to many places. Since there’s no place like home, every year we select a few titles by Maine authors, often set in Maine. Our February book, The Shape of Night, is by Tess Gerritsen, a Camden resident. She’s well-known for her Rizzoli and Isles books and other best-selling suspense novels.
The Shape of Night takes us to DownEast Maine, where food writer Ava Collette arrives from Boston to rent a historic house for the summer. There, she hopes to escape some personal troubles, and to focus on completing her latest cookbook (already behind schedule). She quickly discovers that the serene home, friendly locals and idyllic town have many secrets, including a series of “accidental” deaths and paranormal experiences. It’s definitely a departure from Gerritsen’s other novels, and makes for a suspenseful escape from winter snowstorms!
If you’re looking for a reading “staycation” set in Maine, check out some of the titles the Monday Book Group has read over the past few years:
Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Again (and of course, its predecessor, Olive Kitteridge)
Kerri Arsenault’s Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains (a memoir of her Rumford hometown, and investigation of the paper mill in Mexico)
Matt Cost’s Mainely Power (a murder mystery set in Brunswick)
Sarah Perry’s After the Eclipse (a daughter’s memoir of her mother’s murder in Bridgeton)
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek