BUSHNELL ON THE BOOKS: ‘Silence’ and ‘Woodsqueer’

SILENCE: A NOVEL by William Charpentier; Islandport Press, 2021; 280 pages, $17.95; ISBN 978-1-944762-88-9.


Nick Colonna is a tortured soul, an Iraq War veteran seriously injured when an IED blew up his army vehicle and killed his two best friends. Freed and back in Maine, Nick is trapped in a world of nightmares of PTSD, survivor’s guilt and utter silence. He can see, but cannot hear, he is totally deaf.

“Silence” is the powerful new novel by award-winning Maine author and poet William Carpenter. This novel won the 2022 Maine Literary Award for fiction. It skillfully tackles the painful physical and emotional trauma of a young man adrift in a confusing world where his ears can’t hear and he doesn’t speak, but his eyes still see and his heart still listens.

It’s a story both tender and tragic, and Carpenter tells it carefully, revealing much about the human cost of war, love and resilience, and unexpected heartfelt decisions. Nick’s family is loving and supportive, but he seeks a solitude that matches his silence. He sets up alone as caretaker on a wealthy family’s private island, learning satisfying self-sufficiency.

Nick makes a startling discovery on the island that transforms his life, especially when he realizes that the owner’s plan to develop the island as a tourist resort will destroy his discovery. He shares his find with Julia, daughter of the owner of the island, and makes a profound (and prescient) request to her. And Nick only says one word.

Julia is the only member of the family to oppose the development of the island, but does not know how to stop it. Nick, however, has a hidden plan that Carpenter disguises so well, his unveiling is quietly subtle and deliberately definitive. This story proves that silence is often misunderstood, because as author Alison McGhee says, “You are most powerful when you are most silent.”


WOODSQUEER: CREATING SUSTAINABLE RURAL LIVING by Gretchen Legler; Trinity University Press, 2021; 288 pages, $18.95; ISBN 978-1-59534-959-0.

Satirist Will Durst doesn’t think much about the outdoors: “I hate the outdoors. For me, the outdoors is where the car is. For author Gretchen Legler, however, the outdoors is her favorite world.

“Woodsqueer” is Farmington Legler’s third documentary book, following one about the life of a sportswoman and another about life in Antarctica at McMurdo Station. This is a collection of 32 previously published essays. Legler is an award-winning author who currently teaches creative writing at the University of Maine Farmington.

His writing talent is crystal clear, as expected with 30 years of writing and teaching experience. The essays are well designed, dynamic and entertaining, evoking visual and mental images – you can feel his words in every sentence. The title comes from a word applied to someone who spends too much time in the woods, but that’s precisely where Legler wants to be.

Legler and his partner live at Three O’Clock Cat Farm, 80 acres of farm and woods, raising goats and chickens, growing their own food, chopping firewood, and learning self-reliance skills. She writes about the natural world of animals, trees, and plants, fearing that most Americans suffer from “nature illiteracy.”

She also writes honest and insightful essays on feminism, same-sex marriage, and “lesbians in a heteronormative world,” while exploring difficult memories of her mother and father, as well as her own physical and emotional health.

In “The Tyrant and the Apple Tree”, she recounts how her stubborn impatience nearly killed her in a ladder and chainsaw accident. “Consider the Acorn” contains his thoughts on the mystery and magnificence of an acorn. Learn how to give a chicken a bath and why “love doesn’t always mean happiness.”

Beautiful pen and ink illustrations nicely complement the words in this thoughtful and provocative collection.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

About Stuart M. McFarland

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