Editor’s Note: Given Vinalhaven’s centuries-old tradition of lobstering, we asked Vinalhaven librarian Scott Candage to recommend a few novels about lobstering in Maine. These are his picks, listed in alphabetical order by writer. 

“Stern Men” by Elizabeth Gilbert, Mariner Books, 2001 edition

Yes, that Elizabeth Gilbert. Before she became famous for “Eat, Pray, Love,” Gilbert wrote this novel about trap wars and long-lived animosity over fishing territories between the fictional lobstering communities of Courne Haven and Fort Niles. The young, smart and fiercely independent Ruth Thomas, the book’s chief protagonist, returns to Fort Niles from the privileged boarding school where she went to high school, hoping to join the community’s “stern men” rather than attend college. Gilbert takes a comical yet pointed look at questions of gender, class, heritage and identity on Maine islands where lobstering forms the core of community membership.

“Islands of Time,” Just Write Books, 2013, and its sequel “The Other Island: Ben’s Story,” Maine Authors Publishing, 2017, both by Barbara Kent Lawrence

These two beautifully crafted novels depict life in a coastal Maine fishing community from the 1950s to the present day. It’s not only the love story of Rebecca “Becky” Granger and Ben Bunker, it is equally an exploration of what it means to be members of two communities: the “summer folk” and the “islanders.” The narrative is grounded in the realities of keeping one’s sense of place alive and also protecting the ocean, which is the source of both the community’s economic survival and its identity.

“The Tide Trilogy” by Elisabeth Ogilvie, all published by Down East Books: “High Tide at Noon,” 1944, 1971; “Storm Tide,” 1945, 1972; and “The Ebbing Tide,” 1947, 1974

“Tide Trilogy” is an evocative body of writing by one of Maine’s preeminent mid-century women writers. The three novels feature members of the Bennett family of the fictional Bennett’s Island, Maine, as they negotiate the contested roles women and men play in their community and grapple with the uncertainties of life on an isolated island. In the first of the trilogy, “High Tide at Noon,” we are introduced to Joanna Bennett, a young, strong-minded woman with ambitions to run her own lobster boat. Ogilvie chronicles her journey through the vagaries of romance and marriage, and her relationship’s ultimate unraveling. “Storm Tide” picks up Joanna Bennett’s story as she returns, newly married, to a deserted Bennett’s Island. She and her second husband struggle to make the island a working lobster community once again and to make their marriage work. “The Ebbing Tide” portrays the continuing drama of life on Bennett’s Island as its men leave to fight in World War II. Those who remain must find a way to hold their community together and find sustenance in each other and the sea.

“The Ghost Trap” by K. Stephens, Leapfrog Press, 2009

Stephens weaves a touching yet raw tale about Jamie Eugley, whose family has lobstered for generations from the coastal Maine village of Owls Head. Blaming himself for the accident onboard his boat that led to his girlfriend Anja’s brain injuries, Eugley must find a way to forgive himself while at the same time navigating the challenges posed by a heated trap war and the potential for a relationship with a new woman. The importance of family, tradition, acceptance and redemption in a Maine lobstering community are the book’s central themes.

Scott R. Candage is the Library Director of the Vinalhaven Public Library. 


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