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Stern Men
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About the Author

Elizabeth Gilbert is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Big Magic, Eat Pray Love, and The Signature of All Things, as well as several other internationally bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction. She has been a finalist for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her latest novel, City of Girls, comes out in June, 2019.

Reviews

Set on two fictitious islands in northern Maine during the 1970s, this first novel by the author of a sparkling story collection, Pilgrims, begins slowly but warms up with smart, sassy humor. Isolated from the mainland by 20 miles of sea, but separated from each other only by a small channel, the islands of Fort Niles and Courne Haven should be natural allies, sharing the local lobster industry. Instead, the two communities are old enemies, torn apart by centuries of hostile, occasionally violent competition among their territorial lobstermen. Ruth Thomas, daughter of one of Fort Niles's most cutthroat lobstermen, has returned home after four years at a private girls' school, determined both to resist her rich grandfather's plans to send her to college and to find her place among the island's rough-spoken personalities. Both propositions prove more difficult than the headstrong romantic expects. As Gilbert charts Ruth's attempts to decide her future, she introduces a strong dose of lobster lore and a large cast of sly villains and oddball characters. Her prose is as light-hearted and amusing as ever, though some narrative twists lack the emotional resonance of her previous work and several characters seem hemmed in as caricatures. Ruth's meeting with her estranged mother is smoothed over in an anticlimactic fashion, blunting the power of the scene, and her offbeat coming-of-age story gets going only a third of the way through the book. Nonetheless, Gilbert's comic timing grows sharper in the second half, and her gift for lively, authentic dialogue and atmospheric settings continually lights up this entertaining, and surprisingly thought-provoking, romp. 5-city author tour. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

This is the first novel by Gilbert, whose collection of short stories, Pilgrims (LJ 8/97), was published to critical acclaim. The novel takes place on the remote Maine island of Fort Niles and its neighboring twin, Courne Haven. For years, the residents of these islands have been lobster fishermen constantly at war with one another for control of the waters. Ruth Thomas is born into this community, but she is not quite of it. Her father's family has fished here for generations. Her mother was raised as a servant, the illegitimate child of an adopted daughter of the influential Ellis family, who summer on the island where they once ran a quarry. Ruth's task is to find her own way in the world, despite the Ellis family's attempts to control her and the opinion of many that a smart girl like her would be better off moving to the mainland. This is a beautiful novel, funny and moving at the same time and populated by some quite memorable characters. Highly recommended for public and academic fiction collections.--Debbie Bogenschutz, Cincinnati State Technical & Community Coll. Lib. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

"[Stern Men] flashes with welcome brilliance."
-The New York Times

"Howlingly funny."
-San Francisco Chronicle

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