THE LOBSTER WAR by Ethan Howland


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A 16-year-old boy struggles with the thorny issues of pride, familial loyalty, and personal autonomy in Howland’s debut, a richly atmospheric coming-of-age story. Dain wants to be a lobsterman like his father, who lost his life during a storm when Dain was only nine. Since then, Dain’s main support in the family has come from his brother Eddie, three years his senior. But now their mother is pressuring Dain to go to college, and Eddie has become emotionally unavailable, even antagonistic. Worse, someone is cutting Dain’s lobster traps, and he is determined neither to let anyone “push me off the water” nor “out of his [older brother’s] life.” Set on Maine’s foggy, unforgiving coast, Howland does a masterful job of rendering the sounds, sights, and smells of life on the water in a vivid, pungent way, sometimes using sea imagery to make a point. So Dain’s “thoughts scatter like minnows,” and when his mother gets angry, her voice has the “the iciest, darkest ocean current running through” it. A nascent romance is sensitively and believably handled, though the book is burdened by various other credibility issues. It’s hard to believe some of Eddie’s actions, and the climax, though exciting, is rather contrived. Still, Dain’s personal metamorphosis rings true, his various dilemmas are human and understandable, and readers should be squarely in his corner as he learns to fight for the things that are important and let go of the things that aren’t. (Fiction. 12 )

Pub Date: May 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-8126-2800-4
Page count: 152pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2001


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