Linda Greenlaw is probably best known as the captain of the sister ship to the Andrea Gail, the ill-fated sword-fishing boat that was the focus of Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio played Greenlaw in the film version of that book).
Greenlaw even wrote her own book about sword-fishing, The Hungry Ocean, but she left that life to return to her home of Isle Au Haut, a small island in Maine.
The Lobster Chronicles: Life on a Very Small Island depicts her new life, fishing for lobsters with her father as her one-man crew. But even those who’ve never set foot near the water should still be able to relate to Greenlaw’s story, as much of it focuses on the personalities of those who inhabit Isle Au Haut.
The characters include Victor, a lobsterman who eats cigars and considers purchasing a mail-order bride; Tommy and George, two ineffective local repairmen known as the “Island Boys”; and even her own parents. The tale of her father’s attack by a female lobster is particularly riveting. There’s another compelling story involving her mother, but that’s best left a surprise.
Even her tales of fishing are fairly absorbing – not so much the details of setting and hauling traps, but the silent struggle between professional lobstermen and the mainlanders who threaten to hog off their water, and the dangers of fishing and boating. Greenlaw is especially reflective about the former, observing that she and her fellow lobstermen are often incensed by outsiders intruding on their territory but fear retaliation too much to do anything about it. Her frustration at this paradox is compelling and lends an undercurrent of anger to her otherwise good-natured storytelling.
The book is not without flaws, though, the main one being Greenlaw's pacing. Though the leisurely tone of the book is probably in keeping with life on a small island, waiting for lobsters that don't always come, the timeline is somewhat undefined and not all of the people in Greenlaw's life are as fleshed out as they should be. For instance, one man, who Greenlaw calls her best friend, only shows up in a few paragraphs.
Still, this seems like nitpicking, given the vibrant picture Greenlaw paints of Isle Au Haut. One can almost smell the salt air and taste the lobsters as she describes her life. The Lobster Chronicles is an ideal summer book, especially if you're looking for something to pass the time as you sit on the deck of a New England beach house