Almost, Maine

This magical story of one special night (352 pages) was published in January of 2023 by Square Fish. The book takes you to rural Maine. Melissa read Almost, Maine and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.

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Almost, Maine

John Cariani

In the small town of Almost, Maine, on this particular Friday night, something unusual is happening. The Northern Lights are dancing in the sky, and the inhabitants of Almost are running straight into love, in all its colorful forms.

Author John Cariani is an actor and a playwright. He was on Law & Order for five seasons as forensic expert Julian Beck, starred in the Broadway musical Something Rotten and was nominated for a Tony for his portrayal of Motel the Tailor in the 2004 Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof.

But before he did all of that, he wrote a play called Almost, Maine. One of the most popular plays in the United States, it’s been performed by 100 professional theater companies and more than 5000 community and school productions.

Now that play is a novel, and it’s just as compelling on the page as it is on the stage.

The story unfolds in a series of linked vignettes. Like a real-life small town, all of the characters are connected to each other through friendship, romance, work, history, and proximity.

Two teenagers — Ginette and her best friend Paul — are realizing that they are maybe more than just friends. As Ginette walks through town to think over this momentous change, she passes the town rec center, the Moose Paddy bar, the frozen lake where people ice skate, and a boarding house owned by Ma Dudley. As she passes each location, we get a peek at what’s happening to the people inside.

And what’s happening is that everyone in Almost is falling in or out of love in various ways.

Thanks to the Northern Lights, everything that happens is so literal that it comes all the way back to magical. Hearts physically break. People actually fall into love. A character that’s losing hope gets physically smaller. Two others are so happy while dancing together, they float to the ceiling.

Within this enchanted world, John Cariani explores the rugged beauty and the daily difficulty of living somewhere like rural Maine. Small towns can be a tough place to change your relationships with others — and with yourself. Perceptions are set, memories are long. But on this Friday night, the Northern Lights offer a little help.

John Cariani said that turning his play into a novel allowed him to fill in the blanks the play leaves unfilled. ‘I feel like the book gave me a chance to underscore the strain of ache and melancholy… and maybe help people… remember that hope and joy really can visit you when you least expect it.’

There is a place in northern Maine that is so far north, it’s almost not in the United States. It’s almost in Canada. But not quite. Not many people live there. Not much seems to happen there. And the things that do happen there seem pretty ordinary. Especially to the people who live there.

But some extraordinary things did happen there once — on a Friday in the middle of the winter, not too long ago. Or maybe it was a long time ago. No one quite remembers.

Actually, no one is even sure that the extraordinary things even happened. And no one is even sure that the place actually exists.

But it’s somewhere we’ve all been.

It’s a place called Almost.’ — John Cariani

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