cover image The Lowering Days

The Lowering Days

Gregory Brown. Harper, $26.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-299413-4

Brown’s dynamic debut shines a light on a small town’s fraught history in Maine’s Penobscot River valley. The story is narrated by David Ames, a doctor reflecting on his childhood in the 1980s and ’90s, beginning with his journalist mother, Falon’s establishment of a local newspaper called The Lowering Days during his infancy. As the paper’s first articles go to press, the Indigenous Penobscot people are working to reclaim land they allege was illegitimately sold out from under them in the 19th century. A paper mill now sits on the land—and in the crosshairs of a national clean water movement. After a fire destroys the mill, Falon publishes a letter by a teen eco-activist who claims to have set the fire, and controversy erupts. The white townspeople become increasingly divided on the issues of pollution and land reparations, as rumors and long-held prejudices build to various feuds, particularly between Falon and a troublemaking lobsterman Lyman Creel, whose family owned the mill. The feud with Creel leads to a tragedy that forces David and his family to regroup. Brown poetically depicts the bucolic backdrop and grounds the action amid forested hillsides “deep and green and smoky with the scent of pine.” Lyrical and gorgeously written, Brown’s memorable outing does justice to a complicated web of issues. Agent: Jonah Straus, Jonah Straus Literary. (Mar.)