When I read the first paragraph in the prologue in this nonfiction book, I feared I had a clunker on my hands.

Based on that first glance, it appeared I was saddled with a move-to-Maine memoir by a Massachusetts retiree who bought an old house in Brunswick. What’s new about that?

The answer is: plenty!

The moral? Don’t judge a book by its prologue.

Susan Moran’s book, “The House At Bunganuc Landing,” is a heartfelt and beautifully written story about a couple’s persistent zest for life even in the shadow of impending death. It’s an unusual book in that Moran successfully weaves the interesting history of her 200-year-old house into a story of discovery that commenced when the couple moved to Maine in 1991.

House history alternates with chapters on personal narrative and — mysteriously enough — it all fits together. That combination was Moran’s intent from the beginning, as stated in “The House At Bunganuc Landing.”

“I would place the story of Bill’s and my life together, in the context of the long history of Bunganuc Landing. We were, after all, part of that history, and, as the present slips away into the past, I am part of history, too.”

Bunganuc Landing, settled by Europeans in the early 1700s, is located on the west side of Maquoit Bay across from Mere Point. A part of Brunswick, Bunganuc was named by Wabanaki Indians. A stream that flows by the author’s house is called Bunganuc Brook, sometimes referred to as “the Puggy Muggy.”

Bill and Susan Moran came to Maine with a keen intellectual curiosity that had defined their work and life in Cambridge, Mass. Since the mid-1960s, Bill Moran was a full professor at Harvard. His specialty was Assyriology — an area of study focused on ancient Mesopotamia. He spoke Greek, Latin and knew the ancient Akkadian language.

Susan Drinker Moran was a historian who formerly worked as archivist and administrator for the historic First Church in Cambridge. She also published a history of her church.

The couple had an unusual history, as explained in “The House At Bunganuc Landing.” Bill Moran was a Jesuit who left the order many years ago. He married Susan Drinker in 1970, instantly becoming stepfather to five children from Drinker’s previous marriage — four of them teenagers.

They all survived the blended family blues.

“We were, in fact, blessed with a nearly perfect marriage of tastes,” writes Moran. “When we were courting, a friend of my daughter Kitty’s told us: ‘You two really should get married. You think the same things are funny.”‘

In 1991 — retired with all children well into adulthood — the couple waxed enthusiastic over their new Brunswick home. The previous owner had meticulously restored the old cape to its early 1800s look, and the Morans decided to leave it as is. Susan Moran studied native plants and delved into her new home’s long history. Bill Moran continued his work in Assyriology. He also bought a garden tractor to move firewood.

“Bill was not the least bit mechanical or curious about how things worked,” Moran writes. “When a machine ceased to operate, instead of wondering why, he would say, ‘Let’s wait a bit. It might get better.’ And often it did.”

Five years after moving to their new place, Bill Moran was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

In a chapter titled “Emerging Illness,” Moran describes their shock: “We fought emotional swings from hope to despair, from gladness to mourning, from good cheer to anger and silence, from self-assurance to self-pity, from trust in God to fear of death “

Bill Moran rejoined the Catholic Church. The couple took a vacation in Ireland, though Bill’s rapidly progressing illness landed him in a hospital in Dublin. When they returned to Maine, Susan Moran became her husband’s full-time caretaker in tasks ranging from cooking and cleaning to catheter replacement.

“That it did not ultimately defeat us was due to our commitment to each other, to our joy in each other’s company.” writes the author, “ and to the persistence of hope. Not hope for a cure, but hope and indeed faith that we could shape a way of living with dying.”

Bill Moran died in December 2000. In the years that followed, Susan Moran continued her life at Bunganuc Landing. She volunteered at a homeless shelter and taught a correspondence course in history for prisoners incarcerated all over the United States. She died last August at 82, months after publication of “The House At Bunganuc Landing.”

In this memoir, Susan Moran describes with courage, humor and more than a little grace, two lives well lived in a historic little house in Maine.

Lloyd Ferriss is a writer and photographer who lives in Richmond.