new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

Boston pastry chef’s tasty novel of small town life and a young superhero Vineyard scientist

Valerie Bouthyette/“Dr. Dee Dee Dynamo’s Vineyard Vacation”

Small-town ties

Boston writer and pastry chef Louise Miller’s first novel, The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living’’ (Pamela Dorman), is a small-town story about a big-city baker who ends up moving to fictional Guthrie, Vt., to go to work at a local inn. Miller returns to the town in her tasty second novel, The Late Bloomers’ Club’’ (Pamela Dorman). It tells the story of two sisters, Nora, who owns the local diner, and Kit, who left Guthrie to pursue filmmaking dreams.

An inheritance pulls the two together, and they’re forced to reckon with town pressures and long-established family roles, to make a decision. It’s a transportive book, and one that activates the senses:  the smell of cider donuts, the taste of elderberry juice and corn in red-and-white cardboard boats drenched in butter and flecked with sea salt, and the summertime warmth  of rural New England.  Miller is slated to read from her new book and judge a cake bake-off at Belmont Books on Sept. 15 at 4 p.m.

A superhero for kids

Oneeka Williams’s new children’s book, Dr. Dee Dee Dynamo’s Vineyard Vacation,’’ follows young Dr. Dee Dee as she soars, superhero style, around Martha’s Vineyard — from the gingerbread houses to Gay Head to Oak Bluffs, to various landmarks and beaches — educating the island residents and visitors about climate change and how essential it is to act to save the places we love. Williams, a urologic surgeon in Boston and an assistant clinical professor at Tufts, has written several kids books, with an urge to show women characters in STEM fields (including Dr. Dee Dee Dynamo’s Mission to Pluto’’ and Dr. Dee Dee Dynamo’s Meteorite Mission’’) as superhero protagonists, and an emphasis on characters of color. With lively, colorful illustrations (pictured) by Valerie Bouthyette, the book is a playful tour around the Vineyard, as well as a call to kids and adults alike to pay attention to climate change, to clean up the beaches, use paper not plastic, plant trees, and work together to find solutions. 



An old mill town inspired by the struggling communities near Mount Katahdin is the setting for Maine author Jennifer Richard Jacobson’s stirring and fully realized new middle-grade novel, The Dollar Kids’’ (Candlewick). Twelve-year-old Lowen Grover, an aspiring comic book artist, is devastated over the shooting death of his friend Abe and blames himself for it. When his family wins a lottery to buy a house for a dollar in a rusting old town, Lowen hopes it’ll mean a new beginning for him. The new town, however, brings its own challenges, including residents who harbor their own views of the newcomers and the house — which happens to sit next door to a funeral home (“It only seemed right that Lowen should be reminded every day that dead is dead”). The story, a hopeful one at heart, examines how we don’t overcome grief and loss but evolve from it. Jacobson proves particularly deft in illustrating the relationship between Lowen and his older brother, and Ryan Andrews’s drawings throughout serve as welcome punctuations to the prose.

Coming out

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Pretty Things’’ by Virginie Despentes, translated from the French by Emma Ramadan (Feminist)

Feeld’’ by Jos Charles (Milkweed)

Severance’’ by Ling Ma (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Pick of the week

Lydia at Crow Bookshop in Burlington, Vt., recommends The House of the Spirits’’ by Isabel Allende: “Readers of magical realism will easily fall in love with Isabel Allende’s ‘The House of the Spirits,’ a novel that follows the matriarchal lineage of a Chilean family. The plot follows the development of the characters as they live through developments in Chilean politics. (This is particularly interesting given that Allende’s close relative, Salvador Allende, was the first Marxist president of Chile.) Though this novel is often compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude,’ I have found the women in this book to have an empowering, enchanting character that is distinctly their own.”

Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.” She can be reached at