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Ernie's Ark by Monica Wood

Ernie's Ark

by Monica Wood

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"All these separate journeys, crossing back and forth over each other, begot in him a type of happiness that felt perilous, vaguely ill-gotten." Page 145

That quote sums up this book for me. So many characters, so many stories but they all intertwine like lives in a small mill town do. Some of the stories are so tragic you almost feel bad for how happy the book makes you at points, as you watch hearts break and loved ones leave the plotline. But no matter what, happiness pours from the pages of this book. ( )
  KRaySaulis | Aug 13, 2014 |
In this poignant collection of stories, reminiscent of Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, Wood explores the devastating impact of a long-term union strike against a paper mill in fictional Abbot Falls Maine. Residents of this town, who have depended on the mill and its earnings for generations are suddenly faced with making decisions they have never considered before. By using several different characters, we are able to see the consequences of this year long drag on the local economy, on individual lives, and on the extended community. So much more insightful than any reality TV you'll ever see.

Central to the book is Ernie Whitten, a pipefitter at the mill who is only 3 months short of retirement when the strike begins. He now faces not only the loss of income, and the loss of his pension, but the loss of his wife who is in the terminal stages of cancer. Their only son lives in California, and is rarely in touch. To satisfy a seemingly random suggestion from his wife, Ernie begins to build an ark in the side yard. Throughout the book, the image of the ark pulls other characters into the saga. If God could work a miracle once, why not again? Perhaps if he could just get it finished and get his wife on the ark, she wouldn't leave him.

Various members of another family, the Little's, are woven in as ex-spouses, town officials and strikebreakers. The CEO and owner of the mill makes an appearance early on as he tries to deal with his own problems---not just striking mill workers, but a distant and headstrong adult daughter whose own life is falling apart.

The shining stars are middle-schooler Francine and her step-mother Cindy Love (ex wife of a Little) and owner of Showers of Flowers. Francine is determined that her father and Cindy will hold their marriage together and will go so far as to hide her father's infidelities to avoid losing another mother (her birth mother dumped the kids and went off to London). Her brother Kevin, surly, hurting high-schooler hates everyone, everything, and only wants to become another Thoreau living in the woods. Cindy wisely plays referee between father and son, and gives Francine the attention and mothering she's never enjoyed before.

These nine stories are gems. The writing is as snappy as the breeze on a crystal clear Maine lake in the spring. I'm not sure how I ever missed this one. It's a gem, and I'm really glad that Amazon has brought it back digitally. Grab it anyway you can and rejoice that there are still writers who can bring this much joy out of this kind of sadness. ( )
1 vote tututhefirst | Apr 9, 2012 |
Rating: 4.875* of five

The Book Report: Ernie Whitten no longer has a purpose. He's been a pipe-fitter in Abbots Falls, Maine, at the papermill, for most of his life and now he's...retired, unemployed, not working, whatever...BORED. So he decides to build something.

An ark. Like in the Bible. Maybe miracles will come with it, for Marie, his sick wife.

Nine stories spin in their orbits around this one major event in Abbots Falls, involving town residents both willing and unwilling, and purposeful and aimless, and old and young.

My Review: Sparkles like a gem. The writing is delectable, a sensory feast and an emotional powerhouse. The characters are all limned in quick, indelible strokes and the way Monica Wood works is to make you care just this side of too much for each of them, and then moves on to the next one, all before your readerly feet are fully under you. It's a really cool trick, gotta tell ya.

I said once upon a time that I couldn't understand why this wasn't a TV series. I still don't get it. Abbotts Falls should be on the airwaves somehow. Don't hesitate to pick this book up. It will pay your attention back many times over. ( )
1 vote richardderus | Mar 10, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345477162, Paperback)

The paper mill looms up from the riverbank in Abbott Falls, Maine, a town once drenched with ordinary hopes and dreams, now praying for a small drop of good fortune. Ernie Whitten, a pipe fitter, was three weeks away from a pension-secured retirement when the union went on strike eight months ago. Now his wife Marie is ill. Struck with sudden inspiration, Ernie builds a giant ark in his backyard. It is a work of art for his wife; a vessel to carry them both away; or a plea for God to spare Marie, come hell or high water. As the ark takes shape, the rest of the town carries on. There’s Dan Little, a building-code enforcer who comes to fine Ernie for the ark and makes a significant discovery about himself; Francine Love, a precocious thirteen-year-old who longs to be a part of the family-like world of the union workers; and Atlantic Pulp & Paper CEO Henry John McCoy, an impatient man wearily determined to be a good father to his twenty-six-year-old daughter. The people of Abbott Falls will try their best to hold a community together, against the fiercest of odds. . . .

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:51 -0400)

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Nine interrelated stories create a layered and complex portrait of a community in the midst of a crisis.

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