Strong collection of 12 stories largely set in the author’s home state of Maine, as was DeMarco’s Dark Harbor House (not reviewed).
The opener, “Prince of Darkness,” seems to promise more than it delivers. Young George, an overly well-behaved boy, treats the small wrist burn of a pretty young girl, a summer visitor to his island, and she tells him, “I’m going to have breasts soon. And when I do, you may touch them.” One night on the mainland, George hears a hellfire sermon at church and, as he rows home in a fog, finds himself chased by a Devil hungry for girl-lusting sinners like himself. Does DeMarco dismiss opportunities that would delight Hawthorne and Washington Irving? Well, he’s out for different fish, as he shows especially in the long title story, which turns out to be a Tarkingtonesque picture of Maine, served magnificently by its reserved voicing, and covering more than a century. It opens in the late 1850s, telling of a First Congregational minister and his wife who later gives birth to Cutie Pie, or Apple Pie, or just plain Pie Calderwood, who becomes Superior Court Judge Apple P. Calderwood. Apple’s childhood sweetheart, handsome Leslie, is a dim bulb in high school while Apple becomes class president. Leslie leaves to help the French air force fight Germany, becomes a leading war ace, returns home a triumphant national hero. Apple thinks they’ll marry, but Leslie turns drunkard and marries a Philadelphia deb while Apple becomes the lone woman lawyer in the state to work with battered women. Once she saves him from booze, their amazing life together begins and leads to her defense of Bangor’s Communal Kitchen in the Supreme Court. And don’t miss “Proper Cover,” about a stroke victim who wakes up paralyzed, with no visitors expected for days: “So this was how it was going to be.”
Beautifully detailed stories, bathed in warmth.