I have worked at a variety of fishing lodges and am married to a man who has nearly twenty years of experience as a professional fly fishing guide. As such, it is with some amount of authority that I can speak to the very small community of Easie, as crafted by Robert J. Romano, Jr. in his trio of novels set in western Maine’s Lakes Region, and how they are shaped with accuracy, with charm, and with all the idiosyncrasy that comes with gruff backwoods fishermen (and women) who hold great big hearts hidden beneath their layers of flannel, and the communities that contain them.
Through the three-book series, which begins with North of Easie, continues with West of Rangeley, and concludes with Brook Trout Blues, we follow Salvatore D’Amico and Christine Bailey as they move through the seasons in a sport-centered town populated (mostly) by lovers of the natural world, coffee, and dogs.
Romano is skilled at weaving multiple narratives, zooming out on the mechanics of small town lives and community priorities, then further in on Salvatore’s life as a romantic partner, friend, father, and caretaker of animals. Further, he casts deeper (I had to) to flash bits of below-water imagery and angling insights which display the author’s vast knowledge of the lifestyle about which he writes.
Of the “sports,” or the clients Salvatore expertly steers through the waters of western Maine’s Lakes Region, Romano deftly shows the true range of workday experience a guide may have, depending on whether the sport is truly passionate about fishing or, say, passionate about having a photograph of himself appearing manly to pass around. (Salvatore’s character shows a great deal more patience toward the latter than my husband does these days.)
As I neared the final pages of Brook Trout Blues, I already missed the warm morning coffee at Books in the Woods with Bailey and Rose, a meal with the guys at The Wooden Nickel, or standing on the street chatting with Ronnie Adams or Ollie Stubbs. It’s a feeling I know well: as sport locales near the end of their seasons, things change. Folks transition with the weather, just as I do when I leave the lodge at which I work in Alaska and travel home for the winter to Oregon. There is a magic that exists in looking back at summer angling and the inhabitants of a world so focused on natural offerings; Romano captured it here.
Bob Romano lives in the northwest corner of New Jersey with his wife, Trish, and "the best puppy in the world," their Labrador retriever, Winslow Homer. Trish has contributed artwork and maps to each of her husband's books. For more than thirty years they have maintained a camp in the Rangeley Lakes Region of western Maine, which is where they spend much of their free time.
Reviewed by Brandi Dawn Cornelius.