3 New Maine Novels for Your Summer Reading List

A lobstering family’s suspicious rise to power. A Passamaquoddy Bay island with dark secrets. A family drama at a seaside summer colony.

3 New Maine Novels for Your Summer Reading List
By Bridget M. Burns
From our August 2022 issue

The Midcoast

by Adam White
$26, hardcover, Hogarth Books

Home for the summer from his chichi boarding school, Damariscotta native Andrew is dismayed to find his dad has secured him a job at the (fictional) Thatch Lobster Pound. The work is grueling, and his boss, Ed, just two years his senior, never misses a chance to chide Andrew about his comparatively cushy upbringing. Andrew can’t wait to escape Maine; Ed is quite content to live and work on the midcoast, as have generations of Thatches before him. Even before Andrew quits, there’s no love lost between the two.

Years later, Andrew returns to Maine with his wife, two kids in tow, and is surprised to find that the Thatches have become the town’s wealthiest and most influential family. Ed is now hobnobbing with those he once described to Andrew, dismissively, as “your kind of people,” while Andrew has traded his dreams of screenwriting for work as an English teacher. But the murky details of how the Thatch family came into wealth are the subject of much local gossip.

Andrew’s growing obsession with the Thatches reveals an empire of illicit dealings — and a rickety one, at that. The Midcoast is ostensibly a crime drama, but at heart, it’s a study in archetypes, starring two men from the same hometown but very different backgrounds: blue collar and white collar, lobstering and lacrosse. White, who grew up in Damariscotta and once pulled shifts at the South Bristol Fishermen’s Co-op, asks readers to consider what defines success: Material wealth? Education and achievement? The ability to provide for one’s family — through whatever means necessary? The novel offers no easy answers, just a gripping story weighing the monotony of a life lived safely against the risks and rewards of a less scrupulous path.

The Disinvited Guest

by Carol Goodman
$29, hardcover, William Morrow

In this gothic, pandemic-era page-turner, 10 years have passed since COVID, and the world is dealing with the spread of yet another new virus. The characters in Goodman’s novel all float their own theories as to why: society learned nothing from its past mistakes, the government bungled its readiness and response, or maybe, as the most conspiratorial theorize, the government itself is responsible. 

In this anxious atmosphere, seven acquaintances head to a private island off the down east coast, planning to quarantine together all summer — maybe longer. Reed Harper, the island’s owner, inherited the summer-cottage estate from his parents after they died from (what else?) COVID. Along comes his wife, Lucy, the story’s increasingly unhinged protagonist, plus Reed’s sister and partner, a pair of married friends, and caretaker and native Mainer Mac, whose late mother once worked for the Harpers.

Spruce stands and granite ledges — and Mac’s down east accent — ground the story in Maine, but the island is clearly otherworldly. There are mysterious Gaelic scrawlings, a bog that seems more quicksand than wetland, and passed-down tales of mermaids, selkies, and witches. Fever Island (yep) got its name when it served as a 19th-century quarantine stop for ships carrying Irish immigrants. Unfortunately, typhus got the better of most of them, so the island is full of graves — and maybe, ghosts. 

The Disinvited Guest is part mystery and part horror, but behind all the genre conventions is a poignant exploration about everything the pandemic has put at risk of loss: lives, relationships, and feelings of trust, safety, and normalcy. It’s a cinematic supernatural escape, sure, but it’s also a recognizable portrayal of the stresses plenty of us are feeling in the very real post-pandemic world. 


by Meg Mitchell Moore
$28, hardcover, William Morrow

Louisa and Kristie have both escaped to Owls Head for the summer. Louisa is leaving her comfortable home (and rocky marriage) back in Brooklyn for a few months at her parents’ lovely summer cottage, three kids in tow, hoping to finish the book she’s taken a year-long sabbatical to write, as well as to spend time with her ailing father. Kristie, meanwhile, rode the bus from her humbler digs in Pennsylvania, searching for a piece of her past, with only a letter from her late mother to guide her.

That’s the setup for a braided tale that comes together in ways that are fun and interesting, if not entirely surprising. Moore intricately weaves Louisa and Kristie’s stories, with chapters that alternate not only their points of view, but also those of other, ancillary characters, and the shifting perspectives allow us a variety of takes on a Maine summer, from that of a cash-strapped restaurant server to a privileged child enthralled with marine life to a lifelong summer person old enough to realize her idyllic summer getaway has secrets of its own.

Of course, there’s a twist, and though you may see it coming, the most engaging parts of the book come after. When Vacationland is at its best, it’s a wistful meditation on class, its characters weighing the value of family versus the value of money as they go about their traditional summer visits to familiar-to-Mainers sites like the Farnsworth Art Museum, Owls Head Light, and Wasses Hot Dogs. A surprising number of scenes unfold at Renys, in fact, Moore’s characters bringing us along for the twists and turns of this beachy “Maine adventure.”