Howard Frank Mosher
St. Martin’s Press, 2015
The North Country lost an iconic writer when
Howard Frank Mosher died this past January
after a battle with cancer. Mosher wrote 11 novels and dozens of short stories set in Vermont’s
Northeast Kingdom; God’s Kingdom was the last
book published before his death. If you haven’t
read it, you should. If you have, you might want
to read it again.
On the first read, this is a classic coming-of-age tale. Jim Kinneson is a bright aspiring
writer, attending high school during the 1950s
in a small town filled with unforgettable characters. Jim and the extended Kinneson clan live
in Kingdom County, a fictional version of the
Through young Jim’s eyes, we experience
struggles and strife in a village where the largest
employer is a hardwood furniture mill and many
neighbors work in the woods. Local folks hunt,
trap, fish, tap maple trees, milk cows, and put up
their own firewood.
Mosher artfully captures the culture and the
landscape of northern Vermont in the 1950s. Jim
learns to track deer and “walk them down” along
the mountain ridges and in the bogs. He catches
brook trout on flies tied by Gramps. He sees a
pileated woodpecker that has chiseled a cavity
into a maple tree, leaving a heap of fresh wood
chips in the snow.
I love how Jim notices little details in the forest, like red-capped British soldier lichen and red
maple florets on the path up to the Kinneson family camp. The camp has “God’s Kingdom” carved
into the lintel, making Jim wonder whether “God’s
Kingdom” refers to the camp or the country that
Each chapter reads like a short story. In fact,
We are fortunate that Mosher was able to
complete his final book, Points North, which will
pick up where God’s Kingdom left off. Publication
is expected in early 2018.
That should leave you plenty of time to give
God’s Kingdom a second read.
D;;;; A. V;; W;;
Hubbard Brook: The Story
of a Forest Ecosystem
Richard T. Holmes and Gene E. Likens
Yale University Press, 2016
New Hampshire’s Hubbard Brook Research Forest
is a testament to how much can be gained from
an enduring commitment to scientific research.
Over the past 50 years, hundreds of researchers
and scores of universities and other organizations
have worked in Hubbard Brook, making it one of
the most studied tracts on the planet. Focusing on
the practical uses of science, this distinguished
White Mountain living laboratory has been contributing to our understanding of the northern
hardwood forest and the larger world for more
than half a century. Researchers working there
have documented the past to better explain the
present, and they are documenting the present to
better anticipate the future.
In Hubbard Brook: The Story of a Forest
Ecosystem, Richard T. Holmes and Gene E. Likens
provide an engaging overview of the Hubbard
Brook watershed and highlight some of the contributions to our understanding of ecosystems,
the development of environmental policy, and
after the first few chapters, I started to wonder if
they were standalone pieces in a common setting. Before long, though, I realized that Mosher
was weaving an intricate web of finely wrought
narratives that span several generations. Each
scene shares new details of this close-knit
family and sets up the action in a later chapter.
Eventually, the strands come together to tell a
much bigger story.
It was on the second read, however, that I
began to appreciate Mosher’s true genius.
Beneath the top layer of storytelling runs a
strong undercurrent of today’s most pressing
social issues: racism, intolerance, and fear of
immigrants and outsiders. Mosher is not afraid
to lace his fiction with uncomfortable topics like
poaching, religious hypocrisy, mental illness, and
At first blush, one might consider these simply
to be dramatic devices. But they’re more than
that. Mosher has crafted a sweeping allegory in
which the “trouble in the family” that threads
through the chapters is not just trouble in the
Kinneson family, but within society as a whole
– all of God’s kingdom.
The magic of Mosher’s storytelling lies in how
we feel the dampness as Jim paddles his canoe
across the bog, or how we share his anguish
when he chastises himself for not taking a stand
in the face of bullying and hurtful language.
The magic of Mosher’s messaging is in how
he highlights virtue. For example, Jim’s father,
Charles, is the editor of the Kingdom County
Monitor and won a Pulitzer Prize for an editorial he
wrote condemning U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy.
Charles is also the referee in a vicious basketball
game between rival towns. Throughout the book,
Charles represents the voice of reason – of tolerance and balance in a world where evil, prejudice,
and temptation hide behind closed doors.
Another poignant paragon is Dr. Pliny Templeton,
an escaped slave who put himself through college