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by Martha F. Barkley
The Lobster Chronicles by Colby College graduate Linda Greenlaw, bestselling author of several nonfiction books and novels, has new meaning for me in 2020. I bought my first lobster to cook at the Sunday farmers market in Belgrade Lakes Village. Yes, I finally did it, and boy was it delicious, carefully extracted with heavy duty cutters because of the hard shell and juicy meat dipped in melted butter.
Soft shell lobsters are what we always had at Friday picnics at Little Sebago. Easier to eat, but the one I cooked here this summer has a special flavor in my own kitchen. Rubber bands on both claws kept the boiling silent, much to my relief.
Woody Allen did a lobster cooking scene with two claws clapping, hilarious, in Annie Hall, but the best line for me was later in another scene. I remember the shrieking from the bathroom, "The bug is as big as a Buick" in the shower.
Greenlaw, an English major at Colby, always spent her summers earning college money at the Isle au Haut fishing lobster and helping her dad. Upon graduating from Colby, much to her mother's dismay, she pursued her love of the sea and fishing on swordfish boats that went clear out to the Outer Banks.
Not to be equaled by any other female, Linda earned her way up to becoming the first and only female swordfishing boat captain that I have heard of. After writing her first nonfiction book, The Hungry Ocean, Linda became famous in The Perfect Storm movie based on another excellent nonfiction book by Sebastian Junger.
Linda was the boat captain that warned the fishermen to turn back and wait out the storm. Unfortunately they did not heed her warning and perished in the storm. The movie reveals the perils of the sea in all its mighty tossing of the fishing boat heavy with a huge catch. The crew really wanted to get paid for their enormous haul.
The Perfect Storm book was a bestseller, too, but I enjoyed Linda Greenlaw's writing and seamanship much more in The Hungry Ocean. Her humor, personal family life on the island, and working as a cook on board swordfish boats was all too interesting to put down. The repeated jokes about Linda not finding a husband are ones I will not try to retell: read the book.
When the tourists were once on the Isle au Haut, they saw Linda and her father working on the lobster traps in the woods. One tourist innocently said he did not know lobsters were caught there. Linda's dad replied in a heartbeat that they would move the traps elsewhere soon. Ha-ha-ha-ha, laugh out loud at times. (I am no good at repeating jokes: read the book.)
Linda's mom shattering all the dishes in the kitchen is hard to forget. Read to find out why. Then you may understand. Maybe not.
Linda Greenlaw's Lobster Chronicles was so very much enjoyed by our Charleston book group that we decided to go together to our local Red Lobster Restaurant for food and more book talk. Our Elms Plantation neighbor, Mary, had worked summers in Maine at the Isle au Haut hotel for tourists. She wore starched waitress outfits and served meals to city people from away: such stories she told us as we enjoyed Red Lobster dishes in SC.
Yes, I continued to read every book Linda wrote as a result of this first transforming read for me. Ever get hooked on an author? Can't wait for the next?
Did I take the mailboat yet to the Isle au Haut? Not yet, but my husband and I did visit The Dry Dock Tavern in Portland where Linda spent winters and breaks from fishing and wrote All Fishermen are Liars. Did the waitress tell us anything? No...Robinson Lighthouse is on the island if you want a bed and breakfast overnight. Have not tried that either. A bit pricey.
Did I meet Linda in Maine somewhere? No, she visited our Post & Courier Books and Authors Luncheon in Charleston. I talked to her before she spoke and asked about her adopted daughter. The new book then was Lifesaving Lessons: Notes from an Accidental Mother. She was wonderful to meet and her talk after lunch stole the show from the other popular authors presenting that day. Caring for children, even on a small island, proved to be a challenge for the close-knit community.
At that luncheon a Maine woman with lots of life experiences enchanted a roomful of Southern ladies. Dress and make-up or lack thereof makes no difference when a tale is well told. Linda Greenlaw tells many truths in her nonfiction books and many tales in her novels, all well told.
Slipknot and other fast moving novels by Greenlaw kind of made me feel dizzy, but you might want to try one. Lots of boat and water action scenes. Nonfiction is generally my preference, because so much out there "you just can't make up", especially when it is Linda's exciting life on an island in Maine and the waters surrounding her boat. (Spoiler alert: Yes, she does marry.…)
Brian Lamb, founder of C-SPAN, did an archived interview on Weekend BookTV Booknotes with Linda Greenlaw: now THAT is tv at its very best with no commercial breaks. Just watch and listen to the swordfish boat captain, Colby grad. Better yet, read any of her books. Lamb's interview gets to the facts, but Greenlaw's writing is so very extraordinary. I wonder who her Colby English professors were? They must be proud.
Look for Greenlaw titles at our Belgrade Public Library, by appointment only now, and/or curbside service. She returns to lobster fishing and caring for her parents on the island. How I loved reading that and hearing about town meetings on the island. So much like HOA meetings in SC. Similar to town meets inland Maine, too? I wonder…
People are people everywhere. Virtual meetings now in 2020, a different kind of summer, a different world. But we all still love lobster, so visit Belgrade Lakes Market on Sundays before 1 p.m., outside in the parking area by the Maine Lakes Resource Center. You'll love it, and wear your mask.