With the digital age and the advent of e-readers, one certainly wonders about the fate of the independent bookstore. But in the South Shore, there are still those who passionately believe that the small, independent bookstore holds an important place in the hearts of readers and the identity of any community.
Westwinds Bookshop was established by Margaret Carter Metcalf in 1946, when it was called The Westwinds Bookshop and Lending Library. Located on the second floor of a carriage house on Metcalf’s Washington Street estate, the owners say its large collection of titles, particularly about Asia, rivaled any shop in Cambridge.
In the years following Metcalf’s death in 1957, Westwinds moved to Snug Harbor and was passed along to several of Duxbury’s notable book lovers, until its most recent purchase last year by the Harts.
It is the combination of their shared love of both books, as well as the town of Duxbury, that motivated McDonough and Lydia Hart to make sure Westwinds didn’t disappear from the community when it was up for sale.
McDonough, a mother of two and former Quincy College writing instructor and freelance writer, has been a faithful customer at Westwinds for over 17 years.
Like McDonough, Hart, who has had lifelong ties to Duxbury, envisions expanding Westwinds' reputation as a place where one can shop for the perfect read, as well as continuing Metcalf’s tradition of hosting author receptions, book signings and events featuring writers, illustrators and poets.
Despite having no real experience operating a bookstore, McDonough and Hart on April 1 will proudly celebrate Westwinds’ first year in its home at 35 Depot St.
McDonough said that in the last year they have been working hard to maintain Westwinds’ practice of “personally getting to know each of our customers, purchasing books with our customers in mind, and providing a warm, welcoming atmosphere in the shop.”
Just as important, Westwinds has also defined its mission to include “partnering” with other Duxbury organizations to bring literary events to the area and play a role in local fund-raising.
One of the store’s most popular joint ventures has been the local authors series in collaboration with the Duxbury Free Library and the Duxbury Rural & Historical Society.
To the delight of residents, for example, South Shore author Jennifer Haigh read aloud from her latest novel, “Faith,” which was published in May 2011 and released in paperback recently.
For those currently looking for a good book, McDonough happily shares of few of her recent favorites that feature the South Shore.
She offered high praise for “Faith,” which is Haigh’s fourth novel. McDonough described it as an extremely well-written and memorable novel set in a fictitious South Shore town, and focuses on the pedophile scandal in the Boston Archdiocese and its cataclysmic impact on the devout family of one priest, who is accused of child molestation.
McDonough recommends “Faith” specifically for book clubs in search of meaningful discussion about the highly charged abuse scandal. But she also said the novel is simply a good read for anyone interested in “family dynamics,” and the destructive potential of personal doubt and familial secrecy.
Another compelling read, McDonough said, is “Knowing Jesse,” by actress Marianne Leone (Joanne Moltisanti on “The Sopranos”) of Kingston. The memoir recounts the life of Leone’s son, Jesse Cooper, who died in 2005 at age 17. [Leone is pictured at right with Adam Hart, son of the store's owners.]
McDonough said the book is at once uplifting and heartbreaking, as it shares the challenges and triumphs that occur as the author’s family engaged in a struggle with their son’s cerebral palsy, the medical establishment, and ultimately, a struggle for survival.
“This inspiring book is a powerful read for absolutely any adult who either has lost, or loved a child,” McDonough said.
A less serious subject is covered in Erin Byers Murray’s 2011 book, “Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm.” In it, Murray chronicles her 18-month journey from life in a stable high-fashion job to getting her hands dirty on a daily basis working on the Island Creek Oyster Farm in Duxbury Bay.
With a keen culinary background and engaging observations, Murray writes about dealing with life exposed to the elements, daily conflicts and camaraderie with her fellow male oyster growers, and the transformative impact of this personal journey.
“Everyone from the South Shore will find something to connect with in ‘Shucked,’ ” McDonough said. In fact, she added, “anyone simply interested in food, people, or oyster growing will enjoy this good read.”
While McDonough and Hart lightheartedly say they hope Westwinds will play a role in “making Duxbury the literary hot spot of the South Shore,” they particularly value their connection to their customers, including the very youngest ones.
Westwinds, like many small bookshops, recognizes that it appeals most to customers who still cherish the look of ink on printed pages that are bound between two covers and whose heft they can be felt in one’s hands.
Yet, as McDonough noted, “Independent bookstores still need to embrace the future in whatever form, digital or otherwise, that literature continues to take.” More than anything, she hopes Westwinds will continue to provide the community’s literary needs for yet another 65 years.
Nancy Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org