2018-08-09 / Editorial

The ‘One-in-a-Million’ author to visit McArthur Library

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by Melanie Taylor Coombs

Several years ago I hosted my first whole community reading event. Our committee selected the book “Ernie’s Ark” by Monica Wood. It was the first time I was in charge of such a large scale reading program. I diligently went through the book line by line, dissecting the writing and studying each character. My copy of the book was filled with penciled notes in the margins (not a library book) and torn Post-its marking passages to discuss. Needless to say, I was over prepared for the discussion.

The book is about a town’s reaction to a paper mill closure. The community is divided. Some workers choose to strike and others choose to cross the picket line. Oddly, throughout the story one man begins building a large wooden ark on his front lawn. Wood’s book is an exploration of the paper industry and the impact on Maine’s past and future. The novel was later made into a brilliant play called “The Papermaker.”

Recently, McArthur Library’s book group discussed Monica Wood’s most recent novel, “The One-in-a- Million Boy.” It is a book that is difficult to describe. The characters include a Boy Scout, musician and a woman older than 100 years old. The story is filled with both sorrow and joy and is an utterly wonderful read. It was published in 22 languages in 30 countries and won both the prestigious Nautilus Award (Gold) and the New England Society Book Award.

Periodically on our library’s Facebook page we ask people to mention what they are reading in our popular Reading Roll Call. Last spring someone mentioned Monica Wood and asked if we would invite her to speak at the library. So we did! She will visit the library at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15. Wood is always a pleasure to hear speak.

Although Monica Wood is known for her popular works of fiction, she is probably most famous for the book, “When We Were the Kennedys.” The book received numerous awards and was the number one bestselling book in Maine and also a New England bestseller. The work of narrative non-fiction is funny and captivating, telling the story of her family’s humble roots in Rumford. Her sister Betty was propelled to fame in this work.

Some of the author’s other titles include “Any Bitter Thing,” “My Only Story,” “Secret Language,” “The Pocket Muse” and books for writers and teachers. Her short works have been featured magazines including Oprah. Her second full length play, “The Half-Light,” is due to open at Portland Stage in October 2019.

Wood has been very open about the challenges she faced over the past few years. The loss of her sister in June 2018 prompted her husband to openly discuss his battles with depression in a recent Portland Press Herald article. Wood is a Maine treasure who has shared her talents with so many delighted readers. The presentation is free and light refreshments will be served.

Melanie Taylor Coombs is adult services supervisor/ librarian at McArthur Library in Biddeford.

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