cover image IDYLL BANTER: Weekly Excursions to a Very Small Town

IDYLL BANTER: Weekly Excursions to a Very Small Town

, . . Harmony/Shaye Areheart, $22 (240pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-5215-8

At the beginning of 1992, Bohjalian, a noted novelist (Midwives; Trans-Sister Radio; etc.), started writing a weekly column for the Burlington Free Press, the newspaper in the city closest to his home in Lincoln, Vt. In this inviting volume of more than 60 pieces from his 12 years of chronicling everyday events from "the yellow house on the corner of Quaker Street," the transplanted New Yorker celebrates the village's traditions and showers its residents with praise. He rhapsodizes about the democracy of the annual town meeting, during which he sees "three generations of families scattered across the church like wildflower seeds"; he laments the dwindling in the number of dairy farms in the Green Mountain state and pokes fun at his perpetual inability to locate the septic tank behind his house. Some topics are predictable—invading leaf peepers, maple sugaring, mud season—and Bohjalian occasionally sounds too Pollyannaish as he gushes about smalltown New England life. But he also writes movingly about serious, intimate moments. In the book's most memorable essay, which recounts the destruction of 80% of Lincoln's library books by a flash flood, Bohjalian's words beautifully capture the community's grief: "I saw dazed adults crying softly.... They didn't cry that day for the roads or the bridges that had been lost.... But they did cry for their books." (Dec. 16)

Forecast: With a national radio campaign, six-city author tour, ads in the New York Times Book Review and the New Yorker, and NPR sponsorships, Bohjalian's first nonfiction effort is positioned to be one of the holiday season's big books. It should be popular with his usual readership (female baby boomers) along with readers who enjoy rural life.