This literary crime novel (336 pages) was published in June of 2022 by Hogarth. The book takes you to small-town Maine. Melissa read The Midcoast and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.
This sharp, raw crime novel explores life in the small tourist town of Damariscotta in southeastern Maine. It’s known as the oyster capital of New England, but the drama in this story centers around a lobsterman named Ed Thatch.
Our narrator is Andrew, an English teacher and aspiring writer. He’d broken free of Damariscotta — living in California, New York, and Boston, where he met his equally creative wife. But now, the cost of city life being what it is, they’ve moved back with their kids and are trying to figure out how they fit into this community.
Andrew’s history with Ed goes back to high school when Andrew worked at the Thatch family’s lobster business. Andrew always says he worked with Ed — Ed corrects him, none too gently, saying that Andy worked for him. That tells you what you need to know about their dynamic.
Now, decades later, The Thatch’s rule the scene in Damariscotta. Ed owns real estate, his wife is active in town politics, his son is a cop, and his daughter is a student at Amherst (a.k.a., a little Ivy). And Andy can’t figure out how this happened. Because the Ed he knew was just a work-a-day lobsterman with a chip on his shoulder and a halfway crappy boat.
As the story moves back and forth in time, we see how it all happened — and the increasingly self-destructive moves Ed made to elevate his family.
This is a crime novel that’s not a crime novel, a caper story without the tingling close-calls of a caper. The elements of crime it explores are stripped of any possible romanticism; it’s not the elevated world of a thriller that makes your adrenaline race. Although there’s a good deal of action, it’s a more somber story that depicts the emotional cost of criminal choices and how they ripple through a community.
Rich with details of life on the water and a New England sensibility, this is a searing exploration of the things humans will do for misguided love and loyalty.
As we made our way into the backyard, it became clear that Ed had taken the concept of pre-game reception in a whole new direction. What we were stumbling into was more like a spectacular midcoast-themed carnival. There was a train of folding tables dressed in purple gingham tablecloths, a trailer-length grill blowing smoke into the sky, and a massive white tent strung with yards and yards of hanging lightbulbs. There was even an inflatable lobster the size of an elephant. Someone had wedged a lacrosse stick into the lobster’s left claw, and visitors were taking pictures of each other standing next to it as if they had slain the poor thing. The rest of the meadow was overtaken by players, parents, and coaches, all of them wearing purple… we waded through the small clusters of guests, saying hello to anyone we knew, all of whom looked a little confused by the surrounding festivities but willing to go with the flow in exchange for an open bar… — Adam White
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