BOOKS CHECKED OUT | By JANET CLAPP
Fictional worlds can be fantastical but sometimes they are as realistic as the towns in which we live. Check out these Vermont authors who make the Vermont setting a part of the story, although not always exactly like the Vermont we see outside our windows each day.
By Chris Bohjalian
“There are expressions to convey silence; there are all the old clichés. There are the poetic constructs and affectations. A silence deep as death, a silence deep as eternity.” When a patient of midwife Sibyl Danforth dies giving birth in the winter of 1981, Sibyl is put on trial. Her 14-year-old daughter, Connie, narrates the story from the perspective of a grown woman, now an ob-gyn. Bohjalian fully captures the anxiety of young Connie and the politics and biology of midwifery. Excerpts from Sibyl’s journals reveal her passion for her vocation, “But what made the aura in that room so powerful was the combination of husband-wife love, sister love and mother-daughter love … It was magnificent. I wish I could have bottled the vibes in that room and saved a little for some of the lonelier births.”
Songs in Ordinary Time
By Mary McGarry Morris
It is 1960 in the mythical town of Atkinson, Vermont, a town that looks very much like Rutland. “From here could be seen the roofs of the stores downtown on Merchants Row, and distant church spires, and farther on, the woolly green mountaintops hugging the valley.” Sam Fermoyle, the town drunk, is separated from his wife, Marie. Their three children, Alice, Norm and Benjy each cope in different ways. “His father’s blood-veined eyes peered blearily past the bars, and the old dread stirred in Benjy’s heart of the hot foul breath and the clutch of those long, hard fingers demanding love and loyalty or even the change he always thought he heard jingling in his sons’ pockets.” Morris was raised in Rutland, and this book was an Oprah Book Club selection.
A Stranger in the Kingdom
By Howard Frank Mosher
What could be more idyllic than life in Kingdom County, Vermont, during the summer of 1952? Thirteen-year-old Jim Kinneson plays baseball, goes fishing and helps out his father at the newspaper. A minister who is new to the town observes, “I’ve always fancied Vermont to be one of the relatively few remaining places where folks obeyed the law and helped their neighbors in times of need and assiduously minded their own business the rest of the while.” But the minister’s race brings out ugly prejudices among the locals, “Dad’s great dilemma in the late summer of 1952, however, was that until now he had never believed that such deep-seated and widespread racism was among the village’s evils.” When a young woman is murdered, the bucolic tale of a boy growing up in the country becomes a courtroom drama.
Moving to the Country
By Reeve Lindbergh Brown
When Nancy and Tom King and their two daughters move from the affluent suburbs to rural Vermont, the couple faces issues that strain their marriage even as they adjust to the country. “There had been established since the move a change in their approach to one another, a difference in the air less measurable than the change in climate, but equally pervasive.” Published in 1983, the story depicts not only domestic dramas but the difference between old Vermonters and the newcomers who want to return to a simpler life. As the young man whose family farm the Kings purchased complains, “You people come up here to get away from it all, but as far as I can tell you’re bringing it all with you. Inflated land values, superhighways, housing development, they’re all coming.”
By Archer Mayor
Mayor’s long-running mystery series features Joe Gunther, once a Brattleboro detective and later head of Vermont’s Bureau of Investigation. Although Brattleboro is the most frequent setting, various Vermont towns provide detailed backdrops for Mayor’s books. “Gatekeeper” features Rutland, mentioning the Halloween parade and the fairgrounds: “And so it sits, a Realtor’s black hole — among the most valuable patches of turf in Vermont — beside the garish, crowded, traffic-clogged, but highly profitable snarl of Route 7, resistant so far to all attempt to change its status.”
These titles and many others about Vermont, both fact and fiction, are available at Rutland Free Library. Who’s your favorite Vermont author?
Janet Clapp is an adult services librarian at Rutland Free Library.