Man Plans, God Laughs
By Nat Goodale
Bowditch Press, 2013
Softcover, 242 pp., $14.99
When I think of Donny Coombs, a fifth generation Maine lobsterman who’s the hero of “Vacationland,” the immortal words of Popeye the Sailor Man, pop into my head — “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more!”
It will take him awhile to get to that point, though. Coombs is pretty much an independent live-and-let-live kind of guy. He’s largely content to go lobstering, accompanied by his ornery, territorial, yet faithful and loyal dog, Tut.
However, Coombs’ placid life is about to become more stressful on several fronts.
First there are his new neighbors, Delano and Eliza Nelson. The Nelsons are, as Mainers say, From Away. And the missus in particular is hell-bent on, as Goodale puts it on his website, “saving Maine from the Mainers.”
Job one in this quest is getting Coombs to remove some items they deem unsightly from his yard. Thus begins what will blossom into an increasingly ugly battle between the two neighbors.
Then there’s Shelly Payson, an attractive junior at Harvard, where she’s an outstanding member of the crew team. Shelly’s impetuous, and like her well-to-do father, Chase, used to getting her way. She’s attracted to Coombs, which displeases daddy greatly. His mission is to kill the growing relationship between Coombs and his daughter.
And last, but certainly not least, there’s lobsterman Stanley Maven, who covets Coombs’ territory. He ignores signs to back off and becomes increasingly bold about setting traps where Coombs fishes.
All of these battles get ratcheted up to a fever pitch. And when Coombs reaches his Popeye-esque breaking point, things get very ugly indeed.
Goodale’s crafted a fast-paced page-turner, filled with strongly drawn characters. At first, I was disappointed in the ending. I suspect I’m too used to watching movies where Hollywood wraps everything up neatly to send us smiling out of the theater.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it really rang true. When it’s all said and done, “Vacationland” proves to be a highly entertaining story that’s well-worth reading.