The Lobster Chronicles: Life on a Very Small Island

The Lobster Chronicles: Life on a Very Small Island

by Linda Greenlaw

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781401398125
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 06/11/2003
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 236,770
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Linda Greenlaw has been a deep-sea fisherman for 18 years, becoming the first and only female swordfish captain in the Grand Banks Fleet. This career earned her a prominent role in Sebastian Junger's runaway bestseller, The Perfect Storm and a protrayal in the subsequent film. She was raised in Maine and graduated from Colby College. Greenlaw now lives on Isle au Haut, Maine, where she captains a lobster boat.


Isle au Haut, Maine

Place of Birth:

Stamford, Connecticut


B.A., Colby College, 1983

Read an Excerpt

The Lobster Chronicles: Life on a Very Small Island
By Linda Greenlaw
Copyright C 2002 by Linda Greenlaw

Chapter One: LOBSTERS

In terms of status, the lobster has come a long way. Homarus americanus, or the Maine lobster, ascended from humble fare to fodder fit for royal banquets in a relatively short one hundred years, a true success story. Prior to the nineteenth century, only widows, orphans, and servants ate lobster. And in some parts of New England, serving lobster to prison inmates more than once a week was forbidden by law, as doing so was considered cruel and unusual punishment.

Lobsters are Arthropoda, the phylum whose membership includes insects and spiders. Although lobsters are highly unsightly, the sweet, salty, sensual delight of a claw dipped into drawn butter more than compensates for the lobster's cockroachlike appearance and the work involved in extracting meat from shell. Yet in spite of prestige and high standing, the fishermen of Isle Au Haut still refer to them as "bugs."

Isle Au Haut (pronounced I-LA-HOE) is a small inhabited island off the coast of Maine in an area regarded as "the lobster capital of the world," Penobscot Bay. In a lobster fishing community such as Isle Au Haut, the calendar year can be best described as a two-season system: the lobster season and the off-season. Because this is true of all fishing communities up and down the coast, and because residents rarely refer to their home by name, Isle Au Haut will be referred to throughout this book as simply "the Island."

Friends fear the exploitation of our Island, and worry that any mention of its name will result in increased traffic to our precious and quiet rock. However, many travel articles in magazines and newspapers (not to mention television features) have run over the years, all touting the wonders of various aspects of life and events on Isle Au Haut, and all this attention has thankfully failed to transform u into the dreaded Coney Island. So I suppose I should be flattered that my friends think it possible that my readership might do just that. Oh, I admit that years ago, when I read a Parade magazine article about the Island's three Quinby children, who the journalist claimed were all geniuses, I briefly feared that every parent on the planet desiring gifted, talented, exceptional offspring might attempt to move here, hoping that this concentration of brains might be the result of something in the air, or the water, rather than the Quinby genes. Happily, nobody came.

Still, as a way of placating my nervous friends, family, and neighbors, I want to make it clear that in addition to the reasons stated above, I am calling Isle Au Haut "the Island" because it really is representative of any piece of land surrounded by water that is inhabited by hardworking, independent people, most of whom are lobstermen. If by chance, in the course of reading this book, you should fall in love with, or become consumed with curiosity about Maine island life, I promise you that visiting Mount Desert Island, Bailey Island, or Monhegan will surely satisfy both lust and curiosity. People there welcome tourism. They have hotels and restaurants. We have nothing.

Well, not exactly nothing. The list of what we do have is shorter than that of what we do not have, and those of us who choose to live here do so because of the length of both lists. We have what I believe could be the smallest post office in the country, and a privately owned boat contracted to haul U.S. mail on and off Island. We currently have forty-seven full-time residents, half of whom I am related to in one way or another. (Family trees in small-town Maine are often painted in the abstract. The Greenlaws' genealogy is best described in a phrase I have heard others use: "the family wreath.") We have one general store, one church, one lighthouse, a one-room schoolhouse for grades K through eight, a town hall that seconds as the school's gymnasium, three selectmen, a fishermen's co-op, 4,700 rugged acres of which 2,800 belong to Acadia National Park, and 13 miles of bad road. And we have lobsters.

We do not have a Kmart, or any other mart. We have no movie theater, roller rink, arcade, or bowling alley. Residents can't get manicured, pedicured, dry-cleaned, massaged, hot-tubbed, facial-ed, permed, tinted, foiled, or indoor tanned. We have neither the fine dining nor fast food. There is no Dairy Queen, Jiffy Lube, newspaper stand, or Starbucks. There is no bank, not even an ATM. No cable TV, golf course, movie theater, gym, museum, art gallery . . . Well, you get the picture.

Lobster season for most of us on the Island begins in early May and ends around the first of December. Some fishermen extend or shorten on either end, but in general, we have a seven-month fishing season, and five months of off-season. Each lobster season is typical only in that it is different from every preceding span of seven months in which lobsters have been fished. There are trends, pattersn, and habits that are observed by every generation, but each individual season has its own quirks, ebbs, and flows of cooperative crustaceans. Still, there seems to be in the fishermen's credo a tendency to be amazed that the lobsters this season are not acting the way they did last season. And each season every fisherman will attempt to think and reason like a lobster in hopes of anticipating their next move. A lobster's brain is smaller and simpler (in relation to its body mass) than that of nearly any other living thing in which some form of brain resides. So some fishermen are better suited for this game than others. I am not ashamed to admit that I am not among the best lobster fishermen on the island.

Although the individual members are for the most part hardy, the year-round community on the Island is fragile. This winter's population of forty-seven people is down from seventy residents just two years ago. There are multiple threats to the survival of the community, most notably ever-increasing land values, corresponding property taxes, and extremely limited employment opportunities. The Island, for most of us, is more than a home. It is a refuge. What seems to sustain the community as a whole is lobster. Every year-round family is affected by an abundance or scarcity of income generated by hauling and setting lobster traps. Other than the fact that we all live on this rock, our only common bond is lobster. Island fishermen are presently enjoying the presumed tail end of a lobster heyday, a boom that has endured several seasons of tens of thousands of traps fished and yearly predictions by biologists of sure and pending doom. Our own little piece of America hangs on by a thread to the fate of the lobster.

A small community bears a heavy load. Elderly Islanders move to the mainland when isolated life becomes too strenuous. Why do we not care for our old folks? Small-town politics creates rifts and scars so deep that some individuals, in fact entire families, have found reason to seek opportunity off-Island. Some who remain are nearly hermits, reclusive family units, couples, and individuals preferring seclusion. Man-made problems are inherent in Island life. Yet in our minds, all boils down to the lobster.

Lobsters are tangible. Lobsters become the scapegoat, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that all threats to our ability to catch lobsters become scapegoats. We have no control over Mother Nature, so she is the easiest target. A major storm could wipe us out, boats and gear gone. Disease has been held responsible for catastrophic lobster-kills throughout the fishery's history. Runoff of chemicals and insecticides has devastated stocks in distant grounds quite recently. I moved back to the Island for many reasons, one of which was my desire to make a living fishing for lobster. Upon my return, it became abundantly clear that the greatest hindrance to my happiness and financial welfare would be what all Islanders perceive as the most palpable threat to our livelihoods: the overfishing of our Island's fishing grounds by outsiders. The threat from the mainland lobstermen was both real and present, and was increasingly exponentially with each new season. It dwarfed any threat Mother Nature had recently made. At the time of my joining the game, it was clear that the situation would culminate in war.

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The Lobster Chronicles: Life on a Very Small Island 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
sdave001 on LibraryThing 23 days ago
I bought this book shortly after finishing The Hungry Ocean and I was happy to find that this was just as enjoyable as her first book. Greenlaw has a perfect writing style for this type of book. She certainly knows her way around a boat but she doesn't write with any note of arrogance or superiority. She instead simply paints a very vivid picture of life as a fisherman.
repb on LibraryThing 23 days ago
Somewhat interesting; but not much. I wasn't sure if I was reading about her pursuit of a husband or her pursuit of lobsters; neither of which seem to be very successful. I have not read her The Hungry Ocean. I have to assume it is much better.
ldenham on LibraryThing 23 days ago
Linda's journaling of her trip back home to experience lobstering (after 17 years manning a swordfish boat!), provided more depth than this Georgian knew there could be regarding lobsters! I read the book because the Maine island (Isle Au Haut) is near one of our fond vacation destinations, just south of Nova Scotia. Half of the island is dedicated to Acadia National Park. Linda's experiences upon her re-entry to her stomping grounds were by far more entertaining than the 2nd half of the book, but regardless, the consumption of my next lobster will be coupled with a variety of new thoughts!
mousecheese42 on LibraryThing 23 days ago
I really enjoyed this 2nd book by Greenlaw. Her love and respect for her family and the small town where she lives come through in every chapter. As an educated, 40ish woman who sometimes wonders about the paths I didn't take, I sympathized with Greenlaw's longings for what she doesn't have. She doesn't really solve any of the world's problem; but she reminds me that we all make choices and it's up to us what we do with the results.
circlesreads on LibraryThing 23 days ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, an account of life on a really little island off the coast of Maine. The people in this book are weird and interesting and funny.
theancientreader on LibraryThing 23 days ago
The Lobster Chronicles by Linda Greenlaw is just the sort of work that completely captivates me. For the most part, I find my life quite interesting, do find my life quite interesting and have been fortunate enough to do a lot of the things I wanted to do, and it is turning into a relatively long run, when all is said and done. One of the pleasures I get out of life is learning of other people, their experiences; both exciting, earth shaking, and yes, mundane. Hey, I know about me; I want to know about others. Ms. Greenlaw, by any standard is an interesting person! Her accomplishments are really a bit breath taking as told in the story of her time spent as professional fisherman in her work, The Hungry Ocean.It this autobiographical work we see a more calm, less dangerous (well, sort of) aspect of here life as she introduces us to her native island, a small hunk of rock off the coast of Maine. She has stopped being a Captain of a commercial fishing boat and has taken up lobster trapping, usually with a crew of one, her father. We get a very nice insight to island life; the closeness, harshness, realities of a very hard way of making a living. We also get a close up view of a way of life that may not be with us much longer. Chronicles such as this are a wonderful way to preserve a history of life in these far reaches of our country. This is something that should not be lost to future generations, even if they can only read about them.As far as I was concerned, this work was very well written. Granted, it does not have the polish of a ¿professional¿ writer, and granted, you may find a few flaws in grammar and syntax here and there, but who really cares? Her story is told in her own words, much as you would hear it if you sat and talked with her for a bit. I find this much more pleasing to the eye, ear and mind than many of the professionally written ¿autobiographies as told to.¿ Her small village is absolutely infested with interesting characters, she is quite good at descriptive writing and you get a true feel of what it is like at the place and time of which she writes. I take this work to be an oral history, if nothing more, but a wonderful history and quite well done. I cannot imagine anyone with an ounce of imagination, of curiosity of how others live, or wanting to know of things they have not done themselves, being bored with this work. I actually read it in one setting, and I am a pretty slow reader. I simply could not put the thing down. All in all it was well done. We all have a tale to tell, each of us. Thank goodness there are individuals like Ms. Greenlaw who has the ability to tell theirs. Hope to hear more from this author in the future. D. BlankenshipThe Ozarks
clfisha on LibraryThing 23 days ago
An odd little book. After years spent as a swordfish boat captain (part inspiration for The Perfect Storm) she returns home to a small island in Maine to settle down, too find romance and begin lobster fishing.Greenlaw is a witty and endearing and manages to depict life on a tiny island with aplomb. Memorable characters mix family anecdotes and fishing tales which was interesting but ends up feeling disjointed. There needed to be more of the link between stories. It is also a brutally honest book, by the end her complete loneliness and the sadness of her journey left me feeling slightly uncomfortable. However looking at her bibliography it looks like she has found a new direction and I hope happiness.
keenanblack on LibraryThing 23 days ago
I recently had the opportunity to visit Maine for the first time and found myself wondering. Wondering about lobster fishing, what it is like to live on one of the small islands or isolated fishing communities. I had questions about buoys and boats. This book was AMAZING at answering the questions I had about everything I had seen and observed. The writing style is quick. No extra words. Raw observation combined with true introspection made this book a delight for me. It is one persons account of one lobster fishing season. But there is so much more. Characters as intresting and well portrayed as any Stienbeck novel. I don't know if I would have enjoyed the book as much if I hadn't had any direct knowledge of gear lots and such but the honesty of the portrayl of the people caught me. It isn't a story as much as it is a documentary. Wonderful read.
starbuck5250 on LibraryThing 23 days ago
Greenlaw tells the story of life on the Island interspersed with her life as a lobsterman. She's a direct writer, and fishing is a hard living, so her story may come across as blunt. I found it an easy read though.
caitemaire on LibraryThing 23 days ago
lobster...Maine, rocky coasts and pine tree..the ocean and boats...did I mention lobster? :-)what's not to like. ok, pretty much she had me at Maine. I love the coast of Maine and this book give a very pleasant season on a very small island off the coast. No great drama (well, a bit of real dama with the illness of her mother), and no huge revelations. Just an idea of what it is to give in such a small community, earning a questionable living and yet loving this 'rock' and these people and this life unlike anything else on earth. Except maybe the ocean..always the deep ocean is in the background, maybe calling her back.
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I found this an enjoyable book as I have visited the areas in Maine that are discussed and I have seen the author on TV. I also saw "The perfect storm" which is related to this author. It discusses the life of people who catch our delious seafood.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this after I read F/V Black Sheep because it was also about lobster fishing in New England. It was entertaining and had some very funny moments but it wasn't especially exciting. I liked her stories about the strange characters who live on that island but when it was over I thought she seemed like a lonely person.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I myself come from a small Maine island and have never found anything about our lives worth writing. So when I first heard that Linda Greenlaw was writing a book entirely about a summer in Isle Au Haut I thought she was crazy and decided that I had to read her book. I found everything she wrote to be so true to our lives here out in the Atlantic Ocean of Maine. She describes perfectly the casual daily goings-on of island life and I really related strongly with every word. I know a few Ritas here and there on our island as well as some Island Boys. There are the Vinces and Tennesse Slammers. We have our encounters with ignorant tourists and summer people. Boats and lobsters are what pretty much make our lives go round. This book may not have a so called 'plot-line' or the super hero charcters that people look for in the books they read. Instead you'll find real life people in real life situations. It's a book that is as unique as the culture it comes from. So if you're looking for the great american novel that's heart stoppin thriller or heart throbbing romance, then you may be dissapointed. But if you're looking for a book that describes the simple life of a Maine island, I don't think there's a better one!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I truly enjoyed this book. Linda Greenlaw lives a wonderful life, and is blessed to be able to love her work, and live in such a beautiful place. While reading her book, I felt like I was actually on the island and knew all her neighbors and family. I am now reading her first book, The Hungry Ocean, and again feel as though I'm living it with Linda. I hope she continues writing. I wish I had an older brother to introduce her to!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have to say....I wanted very badly to like this book. I really tried. But halfway through, I quit. If you live in Maine, are a lobster fisherman, or like to read TEDIOUS details about boats & fishing, this is the book for you. If you're looking for an interesting & exciting book that will keep those pages turning, this one will put you to sleep.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Maine is not all coastline and ocean, but certainly a large part of a varied region. I was impressed by how willingly Greenlaw shared her sense of place not only as a fishermen of lobster, but, also with the understanding of community and family. I closed the book and friendship...until the next book
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a great story. Very entertaining.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are looking for something to pass the time while you work on your tan this is it.The author creates a setting so real you can see and feel it. One can almost invision the folk that call this island home.The picture she paints with her words makes you want to spend some time on the coast of Maine.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of the best books I have ever read. I thought it was a brilliant way to portray Maine, and life on a small island. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and wished it had never ended. If you love Maine and lobstering, this book is perfect.