Friday, July 6, 2012

Life in Milltown Maine Explored

Book Review by Theresa Gillis


Monica Wood is a Maine author and my former high school guidance counselor.  While she probably doesn’t remember me as a student, I have been an avid reader of her fiction.  Her latest book, “When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico, Maine” is a step back into. Wood’s childhood and a revealing look at life in a Maine milltown. 
For those of us who spent time growing up in “milltowns,” the descriptions of smoke-filled skies and towering smoke stacks is familiar.  Mexico, Maine, like many of the milltowns in Maine, was made up of families, often with deep ties to each other, to the mill and to a local church.  And like other paper mills, the Oxford Paper Company provided security then uncertainty as times changed. 
Within the backdrop of her hometown, Wood shares her deeply personal memories of both her father and mother. These memories include her brother, her sisters and a treasured uncle and a slew of relatives from Prince Edward Island. Wood recounts time in her Catholic school and the trip her family takes to Washington DC just after the assassination of President Kennedy.
As a reader, I was drawn into this memoir because it felt like a familiar story - the story of a Catholic family growing up in milltown Maine.  This could have been my story - with many exceptions of course.  My parents still live in their milltown of Westbrook, but neither worked at the mill; my siblings and I have moved away from the mill while remaining in Maine; and I don’t have an uncle who is a priest.  You don’t need to have a family like Monica Wood’s to enjoy this deeply engaging memoir, however.  For those of us from Maine, there is the flavor that may not be present in all memoirs (including the frequent mention of Moxie).  But Moxie and gumption are with the Woods family throughout “When We Were the Kennedys.”  You will be rooting for Monica and her family as you enjoy her touching memoir.

Monica Wood will be at Kennebooks, 149 Port Road in Kennebunk, on Thursday, July 12, at 7 p.m. reading from “When We Were the Kennedys,” and signing this new book.