Summary and book reviews of The Lobster Chronicles by Linda Greenlaw

The Lobster Chronicles

Life On A Very Small Island

by Linda Greenlaw

The Lobster Chronicles
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2002, 288 pages
    Jul 2003, 256 pages

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Book Summary

With fascinating nautical descriptions and her eye for the dramas of small-town life, Greenlaw does for lobstering what her first book, The Hungry Ocean, did for swordfishing. Honest, funny, scrappy, and authentic.

Declared a "triumph" by The New York Times Book Review, Linda Greenlaw's first book, The Hungry Ocean, was a fixture on bestseller lists across the country. Now she has written a book that does for lobstering what The Hungry Ocean did for swordfishing -- and which is every bit as honest, funny, scrappy, and authentic.

After seventeen years at sea, Greenlaw decided it was time to take a break from being a swordboat captain, the career that would later earn her a prominent role in Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm and a portrayal in the subsequent film. She felt she needed to return home -- to a tiny island seven miles off the Maine coast with a population of 70 year-round residents, 30 of whom are her relatives. She would pursue a simpler life; move back in with her parents and get to know them again; become a professional lobsterman; and find a guy, build a house, have kids, and settle down.

But all doesn't go quite as planned. The lobsters resolutely refuse to crawl out from under their rocks and into the traps she and her sternman (AKA, her father) have painstakingly set. Her fellow Islanders, an extraordinary collection of characters, draw her into their bizarre Island intrigues. Eligible bachelors prove even more elusive than the lobsters. And as mainlanders increasingly fish waters that are supposed to be reserved for Islanders, she realizes that the Island might be heading for a "gear war," a series of attacks and retaliations that have been known to escalate from sabotage of equipment to extreme violence.

Then, just when she thinks things couldn't get too much worse, something happens that forces her to reevaluate everything she thought she knew about life, luck, and lobsters.

Greenlaw employs throughout her talent for fascinating nautical description and her eye for the dramas of small-town life as she tells a story that is both hilarious and moving. She also offers her take on everything from retrieving engines that have actually gone overboard, to the best way to cook and serve a lobster. The Lobster Chronicles is a must-read for everyone who loves boats and the ocean (and lobsters), everyone who has ever reached a crossroads in life, and everyone who has wondered what it would be like to live on a very small island. A celebration of family and community, this is a book that proves once again that fishermen are still the best story-tellers around.


In terms of status, the lobster has come a long way. Homarus americanus, or the Maine lobster, ascended from humble fare to fodder fit for royal banquets in a relatively short one hundred years, a true success story. Prior to the nineteenth century, only widows, orphans, and servants ate lobster. And in some parts of New England, serving lobster to prison inmates more than once a week was forbidden by law, as doing so was considered cruel and unusual punishment.

Lobsters are Arthropoda, the phylum whose membership includes insects and spiders. Although lobsters are highly unsightly, the sweet, salty, sensual delight of a claw dipped into drawn butter more than compensates for the lobster's cockroachlike appearance and the work involved in extracting meat from shell. Yet in spite of prestige and high standing, the fishermen of Isle Au Haut still refer to them as "bugs."

Isle Au Haut (pronounced I-LA-HOE) is a small inhabited island off the coast of Maine in an area ...

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Media Reviews

Boston Globe

Sense of independence is what this clear, proud memoir is all about.

Publishers Weekly

Self-speculation and uncertainties such as these nicely balance her delightfully cocky essays of island life.

Kirkus Reviews

Despite the occasional wayward personal pronoun or misidentification of a biblical character, her writing is clear and sharp. Anecdotes about encounters at the boatyard or general store recall a quieter, less crowded America that now seems rare indeed. Straightforward storytelling and captivating reading satisfying as a Maine lobster dinner.

Booklist - Danise Hoover

Greenlaw, as comfortable on the page as she is on the ocean, once again proves to be both enlightening and highly entertaining.

New York Times Book Review

A lot of fun to read.

Reader Reviews

Steven Abell

Lobster Chronicles took me back to the early 1960's when I fished for lobsters in Scituate, Massachuseets. I had taken a teaching steacher position in Scituate after living in Ohio for 21 years and spent a summer learning the ways of both the ...   Read More


I have experienced both books by Ms. Greenlaw. The 1st by audio tape and the second by reading. The 1st is more adventurous and entices you to read the 2nd one. The 2nd pulls you more into the experience of a struggling human being and you end ...   Read More


As a midwesterner, I found the book fascinating. Greenlaw gives an honest and funny account of what her life on a tiny island is like. The reader can experience the island life through reading her book without leaving the convenience and trappings of...   Read More


i think that this book is not a good book for a college student, it is good book for a fisherman.
i think it is boring.

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