June 20, 2018
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Maine inspired author’s nostalgic fashion-filled memoir

By Aislinn Sarnacki, BDN Staff

New Maine-related books include fashion-filled memoir, twisted love story, the scariest sled ride ever

“MY MOTHER’S DRESSING ROOM,” By Siobhan McDonough, November 2012, Goose River Press, 200 Pages, Full Color photographs, $24.95

A blaze orange hat from Renys discount store is an item of practicality in Maine. It’s an accessory that keeps your head warm and safe during the much celebrated hunting seasons.

Siobhan McDonough sees her blaze orange hat from Renys a bit differently. It reminds her of duck hunting in Maine, something she’d wanted to do for years. But she also wears the vibrant accessory while walking the streets of Washington, D.C. not far from her home in Alexandria, Va. In the city, the pop of color is a statement, and many of her fashion forward friends want to know where they can get such a vibrant orange cap, complete with ear flaps.

“I would say fashion is a feeling. It doesn’t need to be a superficial, shallow put-off,” said McDonough, who recently published her first book, “My Mother’s Dressing Room,” a collection of short stories and essays in which she explores her memories and life philosophies by opening the doors of two well-stocked closets — her mother’s and her own.

“I’m not in the category of fashionista. That’s not my language at all,” McDonough said. “My language is feeling, nature, sentimentality, love, living life, adventure — all those things to me define that term.”

While many of her stories take place at her childhood home just outside Washington D.C., her time in Maine inspired much of the writing. She tries to travel up to her second home in Castine several times a year, often during the “off season,” to enjoy the beauty of nature. In fact, her love of the outdoors and fashion go hand-in-hand.

“I find the two so intertwined,” she said. “Fashion is aesthetic. Fashion is feeling. Fashion is a way of embracing life. You wear something and feel that moment so much more. You feel the texture of the fabric against your skin or look down at your shirt with some killer pattern, and it just enlivens that moment, just like flowers popping up out of a field.”

Though McDonough prefers to wear a T-shirt and jeans, her hair pulled back into a ponytail, she also enjoys dressing up for occasions, big or small, whether it’s slipping into a gorgeous designer gown for a black tie event or simply donning some of her favorite opal rings to have tea with her mother.

“I do have a lot of opportunities to dress up,” she said. “I travel quite a bit as a reporter and I have a broad social spectrum, thanks in part to my mother [Janet Watkins].”

An Associated Press writer for 12 years, off and on, and a freelance writer, McDonough enjoyed switching gear to write about something more personal.

“This is something I hold so dear to myself — the relationship to my mom and growing up in a neat historic house in a really cool part of the country,” she said. “A fashion book per say, it is not. It is more a link between the feelings and approaches of life through clothes.”

She wrote much of the book in Maine, spending a lot of time in the libraries of Camden, Kennebunk and Ellsworth. The book’s illustrations are by Maine artist Susie Fay, and McDonough sent her manuscript to only one publishing house, Goose River Press in Waldoboro, Maine.

In addition, she considers Maine to be one of the biggest fashion secrets she reveals in the book. It’s in Maine antique, discount and consignment shops where she delights in hunting for vintage treasures and the fashions that allow her to express her personality while still being comfortable in the wilderness.

“I just love it. I step into one of those dusty places. It’s kind of chilly inside,” she said. “And there’s this rabbit coat looking at me, and I’m looking at it. And then I see that it’s only $29. It’s insane. That would never happen to me where I’m from. These trips up north, I really find good bargains and really good things that become memories for me from Maine.”

In addition to Renys, she searches for clothing at the School House Antique Mall in Brewer, Antiques USA in Arundel, The Love Barn in Orland, Country Store Antiques in Trenton, Big Chicken Barn in Ellsworth and the L.L.Bean online vintage store.

Her favorite vintage fashions come from the 60s and 70s, the clothing she watched her mother comb through at Lord & Taylor when she was a little girl. But she also admires elegant dresses and fur coats from the 30s and 40s, styles prevalent in her mother’s vintage collection.

Today, McDonough lives less than a mile from her childhood home and the dressing room she remembers so fondly.

“My mother and I spend lots of time in that dressing room still,” she said, “talking and laughing and planning out what she might wear.”

“CELTIC TIDE,” By Angeli Perrow, October 2012, 197 Pages, Paperback, $8.99

Months after returning to Maine from an adventure-packed trip in Ireland, Xander is back at school and looking forward to the winter Sno-ball. But once again, she finds herself in a predicament. In “Celtic Tide,” the sequel to Angeli Perrow’s “Celtic Thunder,” Xander and her best friend Brynn introduce the beauty of Maine to two boys they met while vacationing in Ireland. Meanwhile, Xander is forced to choose between dating the popular guy in school or the romantic Irish teen who has traveled thousands of miles to enjoy Maine’s snowscape and share in the Christmas festivities.

Released in October, “Celtic Tide” has entered bookstores just in time for the holidays. The chapter book, written for teens, is fast-paced and full of Maine-based excitement, from hiking in Acadia National Park to attending a Native American celebration. And for horse lovers, Perrow makes sure to include plenty of horseback riding.

Born in Rockland, Perrow currently teaches art in Hampden and is the author of five picture books and five novels. Her picture book “Many Hands, A Penobscot Indian Story” was winner of the 2010 Lupine Award. To learn more, visit her website at angeliperrow.com.

“THE ICIEST, DICIEST, SCARIEST SLED RIDE EVER!” By Rebecca Rule, Illustrated by Jennifer Thermes, November 2012, Islandport Press, 36 Pages, Hardcover, $17.95

Seven children set out for a sledding adventure to test out Grampa Bud’s custom-built runner sled, big enough to carry them all. But can they conquer the “iciest, diciest, scariest hill ever”? Feel the excitement of an ordinary winter day of play in the colorful picture book “The iciest, diciest, scariest sled ride ever!” written by Rebecca Rule of New Hampshire and illustrated by Jennifer Themes of Connecticut, both of whom have published previous books.

View Rule’s blog at livefreeandeatpie.com and Therme’s website at jenniferthermes.com.

“THE ABERRATION,” By Kevin Sheehan, September 2012, North Country Press, 265 Pages, Paperback, $15.95

“The Aberration” isn’t the typical love story. Instead of finding love, a young Maine couple — Karcher and Witte — struggle to hold onto their marriage when it’s being torn apart by an unethical Portland psychiatrist who seduces Karcher through hypnotherapy. Emotionally scarred by an upbringing by an alcoholic, suicidal mother, Karcher is an easy target.

The author, Kevin Sheehan, a former engineer, has recently retired to a pine log cabin on the northwest shore of Sebago Lake with his wife, Lindy. This is his first novel.

“THE PROPHECY OF LOVE: GOD’S DESIGN FOR LOVING RELATIONSHIPS,” By Dr. Thomas K. Gaffney, August 2012, Wesbow Press, 240 Pages, Paperback, $17.99; Hardcover, $33.99

In “The Prophecy of Love,” Dr. Tom Gaffney — a Christian, husband, psychologist, board-certified professional Christian counselor and organic wild Maine blueberry grower — writes eloquently about the essential form of God’s love and how it translates into human life through a series of spiritual essays and testimonies. Gaffney, who lives in Stockton Springs, has spent his life studying relationships. He has devoted the past 30 years to promoting loving and healthy relationships in rural Maine.

To learn about the book, visit westbowpress.com, and to learn about Gaffney, visit his professional website at mainechristiancare.com.

“TWO MEN TEN SUNS,” By Jeff Foltz, November 2012, Self-published, 332 Pages, Paperback, $17.95; Ebook, $3.99

A World War II novel by award-winning author Jeff Foltz, “Two Men Ten Suns” is a story about two young men — one American, one Japanese — who battle against internal turmoil as they compete in building the deadliest weapon, one to win the first nuclear arms race. Decades after the war, debates continue about Truman’s decision to drop the bomb and destroy Hiroshima. “Two Men Ten Suns” is an emotional work of historical fiction that looks at the horrific scenario from a new, personal angle. It brings to light, once again, the gravity of Truman’s decision and what it meant to “save lives” at the cost of a city of Japanese citizens.

Foltz received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine. He has three children and seven grandchildren and lives with his wife, Sue, in Camden.

“THE MYTH OF EPHRAIM TUTT: ARTHUR TRAIN AND HIS GREAT LITERARY HOAX,” By Molly Guptill Manning, November 2012, The University of Alabama Press, 260 Pages, Hardcover and Ebook, $29.95

In the newly published “The Myth of Ephraim Tutt,” New York attorney and history buff Molly Manning digs up the true and previously untold story behind what she describes as one of the most elaborate literary hoaxes in American history. Ephraim Tutt, a fictional character created by attorney and bestselling author Arthur Train, was once beloved to the public. But in 1943, an unusual event occurred: Tutt published his autobiography. Confused readers, reviewers and editors considered it to be a nonfiction book. So what is the difference between a fictional character and a living person before the public eye?

This true story has several connections to Maine. Arthur Train vacationed regularly in Maine and eventually built a home on a tract of land he purchased on Mount Desert Island. Some of his greatest works were written on the island, where he often took time away from writing to hike and fish. The home is currently a vacation rental that can be viewed at solscliffhouse.com.

For information about Manning and the book, visit her website at mollymanning.com.

“MOURNING DOVE,” By Meg Wilson, Novermber 2012, Self-published, Paperback, 270 Pages, Paperback, $12.99; Ebook, $2.99

“Mourning Dove,” which earned semi-finalist status in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition, is a tragic story of star-crossed lovers that is inspired by a true Maine event, the 1988 accidental shooting of Bangor resident Karen Wood. The victim of a mistaken hunter, Wood lived down the street from the novel’s author, Meg Wilson. The tragedy affected Wilson so deeply that she wrote the novel as a “heartfelt attempt to find peace,” as she writes in the book’s afterword.

In the novel, a young boy is killed in his backyard by a hunter who isn’t charged with any crimes. As years go by, the boy’s sister falls in love with the hunter’s son, and everyone becomes involved with their forbidden romance.

Wilson, who currently lives in southern Maine with her family, is also author of the young adult novel “Crappy New Year,” and her latest book, “Wander Woman,” is set to be released in 2013.

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