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"In Boston, Vacations Definitely Over"
Date of Review: 
Published Work: 
Richard Eder
The New York Times

It has been 40 years or so since the Boston and Maine Railroad carried passengers as well as freight, and 181 years since Boston governed Maine, then part of Massachusetts. Whiffs of an old colonial attitude persisted longer in one respect: the relationship between Mainers in the communities along the coast and the wealthy Boston families who for generations arrived to spend summers on their properties.

In a Brahmin display of no-display, they might call these camps; but even in their scruffy-Oxford, faded-denim, sockless-tennis-shoe and wretched-hat informality, the reedy-voiced men and resonant-voiced women gave off an air of separateness that they would be the last -- and those who breathed it, the first -- to call superior.

The Mainers who sold them groceries and liquor, repaired their boats and roofs and looked after their places in winter were in no way subservient. If anything, particularly over the last few decades, it was the summer folk who labored to exercise their anxious version of considerateness. They were, in some places (perhaps no longer or only rarely), called the Bostons.

Hence the title of Carolyn Cooke's keen, chilly collection of short stories. Most are about these Bostons, others about the Mainers. Significantly, Ms. Cooke sets the former not in their Maine summers but back in their thinning winter lives. Thinning, mainly, because they are old, failing, poorer and cut off; their Maine sanctuary no more than a memory, not so much nostalgic as uneasy. The three Maine stories, by contrast, deal with characters who are turbulent, struggling and sometimes dangerous.