cover image Downeast: Five Maine Girls and the Unseen Story of Rural America

Downeast: Five Maine Girls and the Unseen Story of Rural America

Gigi Georges. Harper, $27.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-298445-6

Communications strategist Georges debuts with a heartfelt portrait of five teenage girls growing up in Maine’s remote and economically depressed Washington County between 2016 and 2020. Tracking the girls’ lives from high school into college and the workplace, Georges describes how Willow, a photographer, struggles with the “family secret” that her drug-addled father beats his wife and children. Mckenna is a star softball player who captains her own lobster boat in the summers, while Vivian, a talented writer, pushes against the loving constraints of home and church. Valedictorian Josie, hellbent on escaping small-town poverty, gets into Yale. Recruited to play basketball at Bates College, Audrey finds it hard to be so far away from home. Georges provides plenty of data about the region’s economic woes (which have been exacerbated by Covid-19 lockdowns) and opioid overdoses, and delves into the ways in which young women in rural America are constrained by traditional gender roles. But she also lovingly describes the natural beauty of coastal Maine and the strength these friends and their families derive from their surroundings: “Together, they carved a communion with the land and sea around them, and it sustained them.” Enriched by the author’s love of the area and deep admiration for her subjects, this is a worthy tribute to a group of stalwart young women committed to forging their own paths. (May)