Books by Mary Jane Hayes

Released: April 23, 1999

Airy evocations of coasting the eastern seaboard from journalist-mariner Hayes. Hayes has gathered 33 fleeting pensÇes about her life with her husband aboard their trawler yacht as it plies the waters from Canada to Florida. The success of her quick, impressionistic style relies on a vivid summoning of atmosphere, and she delivers, with occasional lapses into wordiness and repetition. She tries her hand at describing most every experience a sailor in her patch might encounter short of mortal storm or accident. She has been caught in a vicious fetch and sailed "a perfect day or two in September when color is absolute." There have been "onyx waters; jeweled coasts," and there have been moments of peril: ominous monochromatic weather, gray seas piling up, when "the windows in the dwellings atop the Gurnet seemed, like horrified eyes, to watch our wallowing." At times she appears to be overwhelmed by stimuli, as in the chapter composed entirely of micro-snippets strung together by ellipses. But she appears happier when the specific weight of an event is given a few sentences, then allowed to pass into the distance like a canal buoy. Striking an easy balance with the ruthlessness and discomfort and abominable motion are the sea's sublimity, gifts of courage and patience, exotic topographies, and the elemental plowing through water and air. Much of her time is spent off the Maine coast (clearly one of her great loves), all lonely, water-gouged, and scented with fir, where the sheer number of coves and inlets, ledges and shifting bars, islands and lobster pots guarantees unexpected delights and rude surprises with every visit. Each of Hayes's chapters, no matter what its tone or mood, is a brisk pick-me-up, an inducement to find oneself on a boat caught between "wakes wide as bridal trains and waves curving neatly away from a bow." Read full book review >