A review of

Why the Devil Chose New England For His Work

by Jason Brown

Central question: How do we leave a small town?
Format: 284 pp., paperback; Size: 5 ½" x 8 ¼"; Price: $14.00; Publisher: Open City Books; Editors: Thomas Beller and Joanna Yas; Print run: 5,000; Book design: Nick Stone; Typeface: Caslon; Scientific phenomenon discovered as a result of train whistles: the Doppler effect; Route length of Amtrak Downeaster train, connecting Portland, Maine, to Boston: 116 miles; Number of Portlands in the United States: sixteen; Representative sentence: “Apparently, no one explained to him that it’s easy to resent someone who leaves and impossible to respect anyone who comes back.”

My younger brother harvests oysters on the Damariscotta River in Maine and talks about a kid on his boat from “up Machias way,” a town on the coast some two hundred miles north of Portland. A good number of the people there have never made it those two hundred miles south. Some never leave town at all. Jason Brown’s second collection of short stories takes place in a Maine town like this, but the fictional Vaughn wouldn’t fall into anyone’s lighthouse-and-lobster idea of “Vacationland.” As for “the way life should be,” the folks in Vaughn—angry high-schoolers, lonely widows, jealous siblings, loggers, teachers, and miscellaneous ne’er-do-wells—don’t have much of a choice one way or the other.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Nina MacLaughlin

Nina MacLaughlin lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and works for the Boston Phoenix.

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