Book Reviews

George Smith

This writer has captured Maine.  

I just discovered a wonderful Maine writer. Lew-Ellyn Hughes isn’t exactly a hidden gem, because she’s been writing a column, Away with Words, for western Maine’s The Original Irregular, for many years. And she’s won many Maine Press Association awards for those columns.  But I didn’t know about her until I read a review by Bill Bushnell of her new book, Maine Stories, published by Maine Authors Publishing in Thomaston. I was intrigued and promptly ordered up a copy of the book. And now I know why she’s so popular and has won awards.  Maine Stories are just that, great stories about our state and people. Lew-Ellyn has a very entertaining way of writing her stories, often in the first person. Many of the stories are humerous. She covers it all, from bugs to grandchildren. There’s even a story about how she could not come up with a story for that week’s column.  I also enjoyed her column about her collection of old Maine books – something I’ve done too.  From teaching kids to ski to operating her own B&B, Lew-Ellyn is out there, doing it and writing about it. One of the more serious stories really grabbed me: a story about a little girl, Delia, who lived in Aroostook County. She was nine years old when her mother died of tuberculosis. Her grandparents were unable to care for her, so she hit the road, carrying her meager belongings, but no money.  People took her in and worked her like a slave. She shoveled hay until she fainted from exhaustion. Many of the homes where she worked treated her horribly, battered, assaulted, neglected, and treated her like slave labor.  Somehow little Delia survived, maintaining a hopeful attitude. When she reached adulthood, she became the loving, nurturing mother of eight children. And as Lew-Ellyn notes, she’s very thankful that Delia didn’t give up on life, because she was Lew-Ellyn’s great grandmother.  I read all of Lew-Ellyn’s 102 stories in one day, unable to stop reading. You can learn more about her and this wonderful book at www.lewellynhughes.com.


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Bushnell on Books


MAINE STORIES: FROM THE WRITER OF THE COLUMN “AWAY WITH WORDS”  

Here’s a surprise — a newspaper columnist who doesn’t have an ax to grind, whine or snivel about some petty annoyance. 

Award-winning columnist Lew-Ellyn Hughes is a woman who thoughtfully writes about things that make folks smile and be grateful for the little joys in life. Hughes lives in Stratton, in Maine’s western mountains, owns a B&B inn and writes for “The Original Irregular.” This book is a collection of 102 previously published columns covering such important topics as old men, toothbrushing, underwear mishaps and childhood adventures.  This is wholesome, comfortable entertainment, beautifully written, with Hughes’s signature self-deprecating wry humor and tenderness — a refreshing departure from much of today’s mean-spirited media scribbling.  In the section about Maine, she tells of her annual mud season vacation to visit friends and look at someone else’s mud. She also describes her unexpected encounter with a large, unfragrant moose butt while mountain biking. And she gently reminds us why Maine and its people are so special, because if we didn’t live in Maine “who would make maple syrup and snowmen?”  Other columns reveal the hilarious house rules for raising three daughters (penned by a 7-year-old), stories about brave little girls and bold women of middle age, how a young child discovered that Santa was just a dirty trick and the madness of planning a daughter’s wedding. Learn why she does not play the accordion (much to everyone’s great relief), why in a marriage happiness and contentment are not the same thing, about the general store’s wildly popular gingerbread cake that wasn’t, and about the Lawn-Chair Man and his helicopter.  Best, however, is her sensible advice about life: “If you listen with your heart to your friends and family, you’ll hear a lot more than just what they’re saying.” How true.