Where in the book
From the 19th century, writers have mined their hometowns and sunk new roots in Maine
Maine is the backdrop for countless books beloved by children and adults, and the home or stomping ground of writers from Henry David Thoreau to Stephen King. Traveling from along the Canadian border south to Kittery and west into the woods, here follows an admittedly incomplete literary guide to the Pine Tree State.
VAN BUREN Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem “Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie’’ (1847) is fictionalized history, but its heroine became a mythic figure, particularly in Nova Scotia (Acadie) and Louisiana, where the story unfolds. In northern Aroostook County, Acadian Village is a reconstructed 1700s museum village in Van Buren. Anne Roy, director, said the marble statue of Evangeline honors all her displaced forebears, explaining, “When Acadians expelled from Acadie didn’t want to talk about their past, they would always refer to Longfellow’s poem.’’ Acadian Village, Route 1, guided tours June to September, 207-868-5042, www.connectmaine.com/acadianvillage
BAXTER STATE PARK Thoreau made three hiking trips up Mount Katahdin and across the Penobscot, Kennebec, and St. John watershed region. In 1864, two years after his death, Thoreau’s observations were collected in “The Maine Woods,’’ which still reflects the wild beauty of the park, the state’s finest jewel. Note: GPS units are notoriously inaccurate here. Baxter State Park. 207-723-5140, www.baxterstateparkauthority.com
OLD TOWN “Mail,’’ Mameve Medwed’s witty 1997 debut novel about starting over, begins with Katinka’s mother nagging her by phone from this town north of Bangor.
RANGELY Louise Dickinson Rich’s family lived in a backwoods western settlement called Middle Dam, near Rangeley, in the 1930s. Her best known work, “We Took to the Woods’’ (1942), is a window into that life.
BANGOR King’s characters inhabit at least 30 places statewide, real and imaginary, including Sanford (“The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon’’), and Castle Rock, a fictional town northwest of Lewiston, where King, who owns a house in Bangor, set the series that ran from “Different Seasons’’ (1982) to “Needful Things’’ (1991). Novelist Tabitha King, Stephen’s wife, invented another small town for her Nodd’s Ridge, Maine, series.
WATERVILLE This mill town may have inspired Richard Russo’s 2002 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “Empire Falls,’’ but a pizza parlor in Skowhegan became the Empire Grill, a vintage diner, for the HBO movie starring Paul Newman. The cafe closed last year.
ISLE AU HAUT “The Hungry Ocean,’’ Linda Greenlaw’s account of life as the nation’s only woman swordfish captain, is among several books she has written about her offshore community on this tiny, rugged island in Acadia National Park. 207-288-3338, www.nps.gov/acad/parkmgmt/isle-au-haut.htm
NORTH BROOKLIN When E.B. White moved here from Manhattan, he discovered his voice and endless subjects for his New Yorker magazine columns and essay collections, including “One Man’s Meat’’ (1942). Charmed by the barnyard animals on his saltwater farm, he penned the children’s classics “Stuart Little’’ and “Charlotte’s Web.’’
CAMDEN Did the steamy novel “Peyton Place’’ (1956) accurately depict what happens behind doors in this home to sea captains and sailors? The movie starring Lana Turner based on Grace Metalious’s bestseller was shot here, but the original story was set in New Hampshire.
ROCKPORT Lew Dietz based the children’s favorite “A Seal Called Andre’’ on the true story of a harbor seal pup adopted in 1961 by the Rockport harbor master and his family. The real Andre learned tricks, revealing himself as a natural entertainer. There is a granite statue in Andre’s honor in Rockport Marine Park.
BRUNSWICK In February 1851, while at communion service in the Bowdoin College church, Harriet Beecher Stowe envisioned the death of Uncle Tom. Swept by emotion, she hurried home afterward to begin writing “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.’’ According to her son and biographer, Charles Edward Stowe, the abolitionist-writer based several characters on her interviews with fugitive slaves in Ohio and Kentucky, where she previously lived. “She took pen and paper and wrote out the vision which had been as it were blown into her mind as by the rushing of a mighty wind,’’ he wrote. Often credited with sparking the Civil War, the novel introduced many Americans to the realities of slavery. Only the Bible sold more copies. Stowe’s home at 63 Federal St., a National Historic Landmark, is owned by Bowdoin and not open to the public. www.nps.gov/history/Nr/travel/under ground/me1.htm
BOOTHBAY The Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden celebrates many children’s books with plantings and sculpture evoking the likes of Portland native Chris Van Dusen’s “Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee’’; Blue Hill resident Robert McCloskey’s “Make Way for Ducklings’’ and “Blueberries for Sal’’; and “Miss Rumphius’’ by Barbara Cooney of Damariscotta. Children’s Garden at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Barters Island Road, daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m., 207-633-4333, www.mainegardens.org
HARPSWELL “Olive Kitteridge,’’ Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning (2009) collection of 13 linked short stories, captures the ordinary lives of true Mainers in an imagined coastal town like Harpswell, where Strout grew up.
NORTH PARSONSFIELD Carolyn Chute’s four novels, including “The Beans of Egypt, Maine’’ (1985), bluntly portray rural poverty in an imagined town near her home here in western Maine.
PORTLAND Three generations of Longfellow’s family lived in the home where he was raised. Now a Maine Historical Society property, it is furnished almost entirely with items owned by the poet’s relatives. Wadsworth-Longfellow House and Gardens, 489 Congress St., guided tours May-October, 207-774-1822, www.mainehistory.org/house_overview.shtml
HOLLIS Around 1900, when girls were expected to be little ladies, the spirited 10-year-old heroine of “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm’’ (1903) won the hearts of her two stern aunts and everyone in fictional Riverboro. The classic children’s book and its adaptation for Broadway were written by Kate Douglas Wiggins, whose town of Hollis beside the Saco River might have been Rebecca’s.
SOUTH BERWICK As a girl, Sarah Orne Jewett accompanied her physician father on house calls. The independent women they met reappear as characters in “Country of the Pointed Firs’’ (1896), set in fictional Dunner’s Landing, loosely based on Tenants Harbor. Historic New England maintains Jewett’s longtime home here. 5 Portland St., hourly tours, June 1-Oct. 15, 207-384-2454, www.historicnewengland.org/historic-properties/homes/sarah-orne-jewett-house
WELLS Ecologist Rachel Carson’s landmark nonfiction work, “Silent Spring’’ (1962), led to a federal ban on use of the pesticide DDT and launched the environmental movement. Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1966, will eventually contain 14,600 acres of coastal York and Cumberland counties. Rachel Carson NWR, 321 Port Road, Wells, hiking trails open daily, 207-646-9226, www.fws.gov/northeast/rachel carson/
YORK One of May Sarton’s best-known books, “The House by the Sea,’’ was written when she lived here on Maine’s southern coast. Along with her “Journal of a Solitude,’’ its deeply personal nature gave women a role model for independence and creativity.
ISLES OF SHOALS In novelist Anita’s Shreve’s first bestseller, “The Weight of Water’’ (1997), a photographer comes to Appledore Island, 9 miles off the coast of Kittery, to shoot a photo essay about two unsolved murders a century earlier. Two women were actually murdered here in 1873. Both were known to poet Celia Thaxter, whose family-owned hotel on Appledore is where she created Maine’s first literary salon. Guests included such literati as Longfellow and Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Impressionist painter Childe Hassam, who illustrated Thaxter’s beloved journal, “An Island Garden.’’ In summer on the rugged island, tours of Thaxter’s restored garden welcome those 18 and older who are steady on their feet. Reservations required. 603-430-5220, www.sml.cornell.edu/sml_reservation.php
Janet Mendelsohn can be reached at www.janetmendelsohn.com.