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Young is a lively and moving story of one young woman's restlessness and struggle with life in a small Maine coastal town during the 1950s. Young's timeless themes still resonate as Evelyn, a recent high school graduate, confronts the question: What is she going to do with her life? All she knows for sure is that she is ready to escape a place where people know her every move and where her mother bakes bread that Evelyn delivers to the increasing number of summer residents.
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Contentment Cove is a riveting story of class distinctions in a 1950s Down East coastal village during a time of cultural change. Meet Dot-Fran, Hilary, and Mina, three residents of a Maine coastal village in the 1950s. Dot-Fran, the youngest, is a native; she runs the town's drug store. Hilary, middle-aged, is a worldly artist. The wealthy Mina and her husband retired to the town after being enchanted with its charm during a one-night visit. Their disparate lives become entwined and eventually clash tragically.
To purchase Young or Contentment Cove, visit the Islandport Press Web site.
Islandport Press is an independent Maine-based publisher dedicated to producing quality books and other materials that detail and amplify the rich social, cultural and economic history of Northern New England.
We strive to tell good, accessible stories that give authentic voice to real people.
If ever a writer could write authentically about what it was like to grow up, live, and work in a Maine coastal village, appreciate its heritage and recognize the changes brought by time, it would be Miriam Colwell. As postmistress for more than thirty years in Prospect Harbor — the Down East town where she was born and raised and that her ancestors helped settle — she watched the daily comings and goings of townsfolk and visitors, and was witness to the events, issues and emotions that shaped their lives. Her observations — combined with what Maine author Sanford Phippen calls Colwell's "authentic Down East voice and dry, subtle sense of humor" — shaped her four novels and forged them into a testament of coastal life and change in the 1940s and 1950s.
Her voice, however, was not fashioned solely in Maine. She spent a few years amongst the literary and fine arts crowd of New York City and then brought a bit of that world home to Prospect Harbor. The mixture of those perspectives and her innate writing talent helped create a voice that captured the time and still resonates in many ways today.
"Everyone who wants to get acquainted with the whole body of Maine literature in the twentieth century should read Miriam Colwell," wrote Betsy Graves in The Puckerbrush Review, "She represents an important piece in the body, an authentic voice of Maine."
Miriam Colwell was born in 1917 in Prospect Harbor. She has lived there most of her life. Today, she lives in the lovely large farmhouse where she was born, a house built by her great-great-great-grandfather in 1817.
Colwell attended a one-room schoolhouse in Prospect Harbor until she was old enough for high school, where — although shy and quite "an innocent" — she won prizes in public speaking contests and began to write poetry. She graduated from Winter Harbor High School in 1935 as class valedictorian and, using some money left to her by her mother, she headed for the University of Maine in Orono. However, after only a year at the university she decided it was not for her. She returned home and went to work at her grandfather's store.
Meanwhile, her poetry would soon garner attention from some important corners. Sometime after returning home from Orono, Colwell received an invitation from her high school friend, Louise Young, to come to Corea to meet some of her new acquaintances. Young's mother had opened a small summer eatery, Katie's Restaurant, which very quickly became popular with all the summer visitors. Young, as an ebullient seventeen-year-old waitress, became equally popular. During Colwell's visit, which was to change her life, Young introduced her to two New York City school teachers and to Chenoweth Hall, with whom Colwell would eventually share her life and travels.
Colwell and Hall worked in New York City for about two years until Colwell learned that Grandfather Cole had reached the mandatory postmaster retirement age of 70. The job always had been held by someone in the family, and her grandmother was anxious for Colwell to return home to be near her family. Colwell agreed and she and Hall relocated to Maine where at age 23, Colwell became the youngest postmaster in the country. She also began writing and establishing a growing network of friends, writers, and artists, so that life in Prospect Harbor was a blend of two worlds. Marsden Hartley, Berenice Abbott, Ruth Moore, Katharine Hathaway, and John Marin were among the well-known writers and artists of the time who Colwell and Hall entertained.
Colwell's novels drew inspiration from her Maine heritage. Her first effort, Wind off the Water. in 1945 was the story of three brothers in a Maine fishing village, two content and one decidedly not. She quickly followed with Day of the Trumpet, a fictional tale loosely based on her grandfather's experience in the fledgling Maine lobster industry, and then Young, a tale of two small-town Maine girls who have just graduated from high school.
Colwell believes that within the 15-year span of time during which Wind off the Water, Young, and Contentment Cove are set, the changing coast is clearly reflected.
"In their own small way," Colwell said, "I think these three books bear witness to and portray the changing demographics and changing culture that has taken place along coastal areas over the last fifty years."
And Colwell, who has closely watched that change for nearly 90 years, should know as well as anyone.
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