In the 1990s, I bought an old two-story, side-hall entry farmhouse in East Pittston, Maine; the history of that particular house brought me to Joel Thompson, who bought the land in 1811 and whose descendants owned the property for the next hundred years.
I explored some of the neighboring farms, too, and soon I had five families—Thompson, Blodgett, Crocker, Call, and Stilphen—who established an agricultural neighborhood on the Eastern River, one that stayed strong through four generations, well into the 20th century.
Those houses, all but two gone now to cellar holes and sumac, provided the overall structure for The Eastern. Public records—town meeting reports, cemetery plots, census returns, probate files, commentary and social notes from old Gardiner area newspapers—framed in the details of names, dates, and events.
From there, though, I was on my own.
Both fiction and social history, the novel explores the themes of community and reciprocity, of working together for the common
good—solid New England concepts we seem to have lost along the way.
The Eastern is my way of bringing those ideals back again.
After all, I was part of that Eastern River community—I lived in Joel Thompson’s house. I ate in his kitchen, slept in his upstairs rooms, sat on his front porch; I swept the barn in which he kept his cows; I walked his fields and woodlots, admired the stone walls that defined his meadows and apple orchards.
Joel Thompson gave me a home, a sense of grace, a deep understanding of time and place.
For all that, I owe him something.
Here it is.
The writing is delicious, unpretentious yet full of splendor. I read it in two sittings, unwilling to leave…[those] who settled in Pittston on the banks of the Eastern River almost two hundred years ago. This book is one of the most beautifully written I’ve read in a long time.
Cynthia Underwood Thayer,
author of A Brief Lunacy