Published by Maine Authors Publishers, 2020
“History is not about dates, dead generals, battles, land acquisition, or (oftentimes) disastrous governmental decisions! I’ve always felt that history is about the people who are forced to deal with the aftermath of all those; history is ordinary people living common, lovely lives.” -Deb Gould
Historical fiction has many stories to tell us and lessons to teach, but only if the author makes it possible for the reader to experience the past in terms of the present day. Deb Gould has accomplished this difficult task in her 2020 novel, The Eastern, Book Two, Later On.
Using vernacular speech and historical terms she creates characters with whom a reader might stroll the rutty roads along the Eastern River or turn at a Grange dance in 1900. These are people whose parents and grandparents were the original settlers of Pittston, Maine. The succeeding generations are a bit more modern, with machines and consumer goods making their farm lives a bit easier than that of their forebears. Some have tired of farming and dream of ways to make a better living in Bangor, Portland, even Boston, Massachusetts.
From the first paragraph of Later On I remembered Jane and Nathaniel Blodgett from Book One: The Early Years as being younger friends whom I had not seen in a while. Like the Thompson, Crocker, Call and Stilphen families, they had been living their life without me since I put down the first book. At the conclusion I wondered what would become of those who stayed behind to live a rustic life, as well as those younger ones who moved away.
Public records, newspaper clippings and journal entries help to build a background bulletin board of historical fact that enlivens the storyline, especially for those of us who have a love of Maine history. The milieu rings true from the perspective how we live today.
Beyond the story and background elements, the way Deb uses her words makes it easy to become absorbed in the reality of this book, even more than in the first. It is not only the story of individuals, but also the telling of how a culture has evolved between 1820, year of Maine’s statehood, and 1920. Words are selected and merged succinctly, much as a poet might use them, to give the avid reader a subjective experience. Deb’s writing reveals the world we all might have experienced a century or more ago.