By Ben Beagle Daily News Lifestyles Editor
January 16, 2004
Organizers of “A Tale for Three Counties” have a new assignment for the community: Read Howard Frank Mosher’s novel Northern Borders .
The Vermont author’s book, a coming-of-age story told during a dozen years just after World War II, has been chosen for the second year of “Tale.” The community reading project aims to get people in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties reading and discussing the same book. The project culminates next March with three days of visits from Mosher.
“There’s a very strong sense of place in his books,” said Leslie DeLooze, the reference and community services librarian at Richmond Memorial Library who sparked the first “Tale” project which wrapped in March.
The project’s second year will resemble the first, but with at least one additional author talk and a slide presentation by the author. Additional programming is being considered. A number of book discussions at participating libraries will also be scheduled prior to the author’s visit.
Four programs with the author are planned, including two in Wyoming County. He is scheduled to be at Richmond Memorial Library in Batavia on March 25, Lee-Whedon Memorial Library in Medina on March 26, and at two locations in Wyoming County on March 27 – Arcade Free Library in the morning, and an afternoon session tentatively set at Letchworth High School.
Northern Borders , Mosher’s fifth novel, is set in fictional Kingdom County, in a region known as the Northeast Kingdom along Vermont’s border with Canada. The novel is a nostalgic look back at the childhood of Austen Kittredge III. Austen was 6 years old when he left his widowed father in 1948 to live with his paternal grandparents – an Egypt-obsessed grandmother, Abiah, and an outdoors-loving, secretive grandfather, Austin.
“Austin is just a boy that seems to totally accept his whole family warts and all,” said Peggy Parker, director of the Perry Public Library. “Even minor characters are well done, so you really get the flavor of the story. I think this is a book that will have lasting impression.”
The coming-of-age story recounts escapades at the county fair, doings at the annual family reunion and Shakespeare performance, and conflicts at the one-room schoolhouse.
“His story fits in to all the things we wanted to find in a book. And there’s a wide reader appeal, including teen-agers,” DeLooze said.
The book covers such topics as small town living, family relationships, generational differences, the outdoors and the seemingly archaic way of life that was lived in Northern Vermont at the time.
“Even though it is fiction, it is written like a memoir,” Parker said. “His style keeps readers moving along. I think there’s enough for all ages to find something that interests them.”
Northern Borders , considered by many to be one of Mosher’s best books, was first published in hardcover in 1994 and reissued in paperback this spring so readers should be able to find it in bookstores and at libraries. Local libraries will be stocking extra copies of the book for loan and purchase. The book is also available through inter-library loan.
Mosher, who won the 1991 New England Book Award for his novel A Stranger in the Kingdom , has set several of his books in New England. His stories are beloved by critics and readers for their colorful characters, gentle humor and ability to evoke particular times and places.
The Los Angeles Times described the author as “a combination of Ernest Hemingway, Henry David Thoreau and Jim Harrison.” Others have compared Mosher’s ability to capture the affectionate details of New England life to the way William Faulkner wrote about the South.
The “Tale” organizing committee, with representatives from libraries in all three counties, considered more than a dozen books and authors.
Earlier this year author Leif Enger visited for three days to talk about his debut novel, Peace Like a River . Nearly 300 people attended programs in Batavia, Medina and Perry.
Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation