Synopses & Reviews
In this big, wise, funny first novel from a PEN/Hemingway Award finalist, a resilient young woman brings an end to an age-old fishing feud.
Elizabeth Gilbert's debut collection, Pilgrims, was hailed as "a superior collection of stories about women who are as tough as they look, though perhaps not quite as tough as they think they are" (Glamour). Stern Men brings us Gilbert's toughest, smartest, most lovable heroine yet.
On two remote islands off the coast of Maine, the local lobstermen have fought savagely for generations over the fishing rights to the ocean waters between them. Young Ruth Thomas is born into this feud, a daughter of Fort Niles destined to be at war with the men of Courne Haven. Eighteen years old, smart as a whip, irredeemably unromantic, Ruth returns home from boarding school determined to throw her education overboard and join the "stern men" who work the lobster boats. She is certain of one thing: she will not surrender control of her life to the wealthy Ellis family, which has always had a sinister hold over the island. On her side are Fort Niles's eccentric residents: the lovable Mrs. Pommeroy and her various deadbeat sons; sweet old Senator Simon, on a mission to dig up shipwreck treasure; and Simon's twin brother, Angus Addams, the most ruthless lobsterman alive.
The feud between the islands escalates daily until Ruth gets a glimpse of Owney Wishnell, a silent young Courne Haven Adonis with a prenatural gift for catching lobsters. Their passion is fast, furious, and forbidden. Their only hope is an unlikely truce.
For readers who love the work of John Irving, Stern Men is a comedy that is as smart and finely crafted as it is entertaining. Stern Men captures a particular American spirit with on-the-mark dialogue and a fine funny touch that pierces our notions of commerce and class. This is a large-canvas novel with a heroine destined for greatness in spite of herself.
"Gilbert's comic timing grows...in the second half, and her gift for lively, authentic dialogue and atmospheric settings continually lights up this entertaining, and surprisingly thought-provoking, romp." Publishers Weekly
"Stern Men offers some notable successes: Mrs. Pommeroy is a fascinating creation, and Ruth is a character of novelistic scope." The New York Times Review of Books
"Gilbert's tangy language has as much music as muscle; the novel is
Emersonian in its clarity and Austenian in its sly social
"This is a beautiful novel, funny and moving at the same time and populated by some quite memorable characters." Library Journal
"Gilbert's novel is funny and offbeat, full of odd characters and a strong-willed, opinionated protagonist who is destined for more than what life has presented her." Booklist
"[W]hile the story is more or less contemporary, it has the time-out-of-time quality typical of the best fictionand it has a heroine who owes more to Voltaire than to Helen Fielding." Kirkus Reviews
On two remote islands off the coast of Maine, the local lobstermen have fought savagely for generations over the fishing rights to the ocean waters between them. Young Ruth Thomas is born into this feud, the daughter of one of the greediest lobstermen in Maine. Eighteen years old, as smart as a whip, and irredeemably unromantic, Ruth returns home from boarding school determined to throw her education overboard and join the "stern men." As the feud escalates, she helps work the lobster boats, brushes up on her profanity, and eventually falls for Owney Wishnell, a handsome young lobsterman. "Funny, clever and wise" (Seattle Times), STERN MEN captures a feisty American spirit through this unforgettable heroine who is destined for greatness despite herself.
About the Author
Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of the story collection Pilgrims, a finalist for the 1998 PEN/Hemingway Award. It was a New York Times Notable Book and was listed as one of the Most Intriguing Books of 1997 by Glamour magazine. Pilgrims also won best first fiction awards from the Paris Review, the Southern Review, and Ploughshares. Gilbert's fiction has been published in Esquire, STORY, GQ, the Paris Review, Ploughshares, and the Mississippi Review. She is also a Pushcart Prize winner, and her nonfiction writing has earned her a 1999 National Magazine Award nomination. Annie Proulx called Gilbert a "young writer of incandescent talent." Currently a writer-at-large for GQ, Gilbert lives in New York's Hudson Valley.