Written by Jen Finn
December 30, 2011
True Stories from Matinicus, Maine
By Crash Barry
Maine Misadventures, 2011
Hardcover, 130 pp., $18.00
Author’s stint as sternman on Maine’s Matinicus Island turns a wanderer into a writer
Only the folks who live and fish on Matinicus Island really know what the remote Maine island, located 20 miles out to sea, is like. Maine author Crash Barry doesn’t claim to be a Matinicus expert. But “Tough Island,” his memoir on the two years he spent there working as a lobster boat sternman offers one man’s view of what life there was like.
From the picture Barry paints, it wasn’t an easy one. A state ferry visits nine times a year and airplanes only land when the weather cooperates, which is seldom. The island,
devoid of any police presence, has long enjoyed a roughand-tumble reputation.
At age 23, Barry, whose résumé includes stints as a demolitionist, alpaca herdsman, cow milker and blueberry raker, moved to Matinicus in 1991. The island’s solitary nature suited Barry well. As the book’s back cover notes, his stay allowed him to “study a
unique society with a wanna-be writer’s brain, filtered through a thick lens of drugs, youth and hard work.”
“Tough Island,” is a darkly humorous and unvarnished snapshot of the island and its inhabitants. Barry’s publisher describes it as “a guided tour of a unique society told through tales of danger and drugs, sex and violence, death and sorrow…”
All of that is there, true enough, but the book is more than that, really. It’s also a portrait of an author as a young man, searching for an identity and a way to turn himself into a writer.
— Linc Bedrosian
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