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Literary Finesse in Lobster Country
By Laura Steadham Smith
In her debut novel, The From-Aways, CJ Hauser whisks us into a world of homegrown legends and tenacious lobstermen, of rocky shores and political gridlock. Set in the fictional town of Menamon, Maine, the novel tells a tale fraught with love, loss, and the unexpected friendships that sustain us. The backdrop is vivid and richly developed, and Hauser’s prose is clear, witty, and lyrical, a confident blend of action and poetry.
The story introduces Leah Lynch, a journalist who follows her new husband to Menamon on the coattails of a whirlwind romance and hasty wedding. At the novel’s opening, Leah finds herself in a world both foreign and fascinating. Menamon is a town where petty squabbles count as news and the average stranger understands her new husband better than Leah herself. Leah is idealistic and naïve, but also stubborn; maybe she can’t kill a lobster, but as the action develops and the town takes sides over its uncertain future, she learns the depths of her own strength and tenacity.
Quinn Winters comes to Menamon with a different agenda: to track down her long-lost father. Impetuous and quick-tempered, Quinn has arrived in Menamon without a plan, and even her most basic expectations are overturned as the novel’s twists and surprises unfold. Like Leah, Quinn is capable of loving more deeply and dangerously than she has ever known. Though the two women are widely different, they navigate the hazards of life in Menamon side by side. Readers will appreciate the friction and subsequent sparks between these disparate but complementary characters.
As the tide rises, these women and the ones they love are pulled into an escalating string of events that culminate in a heartbreaking and achingly hopeful conclusion. Hauser’s debut efforts are charming, insightful, and poignant. She has earned her reputation as an author worth following, both into Menamon and in future endeavors.
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