A quest for the headwaters of a small stream in Maine becomes an obsession bound up in a celebration of life.
Writer and sometime novelist Roorbach (The Smallest Color, 2001) begins his narrative as a teacher at Ohio State who finds himself, along with his wife Juliet, longing to be at the summer home they are refurbishing near Farmington, Maine whenever their inconveniently separate careers keep them away from it. This is a dilemma; so is the fact that her biological clock is ticking, yet the professor (now Contemporary American Letters, Holy Cross) is fixed on the idea of finding the source of Temple stream, a nearby “pocket paradise [of] birdsong and beaver work.” But there are obstacles, like the moose-sized Earl Pomeroy, a lumbering (in all senses of the word) local who develops into Roorbach’s fated nemesis—and firewood supplier—beginning with his colorfully articulated theory that yuppie academics on research sabbaticals are somehow ripping off honest taxpayers. His initial confrontation with Pomeroy crystallizes the Down Maine antipathy that anyone from “away” will immediately recognize—a friend will later explain that even after 30 years’ residency, he and his wife are still regarded as “full-time summer people.” Sourcing Temple Stream goes on, however, summer and winter, the author dragging his canoe past beaver dams and paddling long-abandoned millponds, crossing the same ponds frozen on cross-country skis, consulting flawed antique maps, etc., until the objective is finally reached. In the meantime, a baby girl arrives and Earl Pomeroy gets ugly. Rich and colorful language flows, too, as Roorbach notes that the local Walmart has “metastasized” to a Superstore in only a few years, and at another point a cluster of teenage boys arrives on scene “looking like they’d just said yes to drugs.”
Deft and evocative, making small adventures loom joyfully large.