<B>A captain's taste of island life</B>Sebastian Junger first drew attention to Linda Greenlaw, then the captain of a swordfishing boat, in his 1997 bestseller, <I>The Perfect Storm</I>. Subsequently, Greenlaw penned her own popular book, the best-selling <I>The Hungry Ocean</I>. After 17 years of swordfishing, she returned to her home on Isle au Haut, Maine, to harvest lobsters. Her new memoir, <B>The Lobster Chronicles: Life on a Very Small Island</B>, spans one season of work on the tiny island, during which she lives with her parents and enlists her father, a retired steel company executive, as her crew of one. Although Greenlaw goes into near-technical detail about the history, methods, dangers and frustrations of lobstering, her real gift is vividly re-creating the characters and civic hubbub of a community that has (at last count) only 47 year-round residents. There's Rita, the snoop, thief, seer and nostrum peddler; Victor, the peruser of mail-order bride videos; and the crafty but colossally inept handymen known as the Island Boys. The author doesn't spare herself ridicule. Now 40 and admittedly still shopping for a mate, she wryly observes that she has returned to a place where there are only three single men two of whom are gay and the third her cousin.
Greenlaw also plumbs her evolving relationship with her parents, finding her father calm and reassuring and her mother bright, engaging and volatile, but something of a pain. The link with her mother strengthens, however, when the older woman falls seriously ill.
Even as she turns her gaze inland, Greenlaw remains alert to the beauty and hazards of the surrounding waters. To date, she observes, I have lost eleven personal friends in what can best be described as six separate showings of the ocean's conscienceless temper.' . . . I am often torn between wanting to know more, and wishing I did not know as much as I do. What Greenlaw does know and illuminate here with anecdotal precision is that chance and circumstance continue to shape her views, just as inexorably as the pounding sea shapes the contours of her beloved island.