Saturday, June 24, 2017

Martha's Vineyard: Isle of Dreams by Susan Branch

The right book makes its appearance at just the right time? I like to think that is serendipity.  

My first steps along the pondering path of plotting a future program for our library led me to learn more about Cynthia Riggs, the author of a cozy mysteries series that is set in Martha's Vineyard.  Riggs began writing in her eighties and, as she gained notoriety for her writing, she was finally reunited with a long ago love. Both of them had full, separate lives and families. They soon married and had four lovely years together until Howard's death in February of this year.  

"A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” – John Steinbeck

Following this Martha's Vineyard inspiration, where does one go next? Leafing through nearly everything that can be found on that subject, I looked for ways to enhance our visitor's experience with the literature.

Here comes the serendipitous part! I uncovered three books with a Martha's Vineyard connection. I absolutely adore them as much as a new old flame. The author is Susan Branch who, as you may recall, created the cookbook in the 1980s, Heart of the Home: Notes From a Vineyard Kitchen. She has written many books on entertaining and is perhaps remembered most for designing countless cheerily ornate note cards, calendars, mugs, and more.  I chose Martha's Vineyard: Isle of Dreams to start. What could be more perfect?

Isle of Dreams is a memoir and you will find it within our Biography collection. The story begins after Branch's longtime relationship and marriage has come to an end.  She wants to leave the west coast and take up temporary residence in Martha's Vineyard for three months as she sorts things out.  During her search for a house to rent, her real estate agent takes her on a side trip to photograph a small cottage in the woods that had recently become vacant.  The home had belonged to a single, elderly lady that had passed away and was not yet on the market.  The quaint tiny cottage, called Holly Oak, spoke to Susan and she decided to purchase it.

Over the next months, Susan worked her magic on this lonely little cottage, personalizing it with charming touches that are her signature style.  Here you will watch her rebuild her life and realize a long dream of becoming an author, sharing her experiences along the way.  In all of her books Ms. Branch combines her artistic talents with storytelling, embellishing each hand-lettered page with nostalgic drawings, photos, and quotes.  Also sprinkled in among the pages are favorite recipes and book suggestions that have inspired or influenced her life.  Her story will lead you on a stroll down memory lane if you have fond remembrances of events and styles that were popular from the 1980s to the present.  For me they triggered a reflection on my own life during those decades. This book is also sure to spark your creativity if you are a fan of artistic journaling.

Isle of Dreams, published in 2016, is really book number two of three.  Fairytale Girl precedes it and is also a memoir.  It was published in 2015 and can also be found in Biographies. Here she tells tales of California.  She has captured moments with the same wonderful illustrations, hand lettering, photos, and quotes in keeping with her home state's motto "Eureka!" The motto of course may be translated as "I have found it!"   She even found herself meeting the Beatles in the 60s on one of their first tours to the States.

Book three is A Fine Romance and is written as a travel journal about her twenty-fifth wedding anniversary trip to England aboard the Queen Mary 2.  It is found in Adult Non-Fiction by the Call Number:  914.2 B816f.  It is a fabulous story of a two month romp across the English country side and visiting old friends, historic homes, and famous places from literature and beyond.  It made me want to pack my bags right now.  Please take your time and scour through each of these books.  They are works of art in more ways than one.

I hope a future published retreat is in the works, but in the meantime her musings are ever available at  Thirty odd years later, she is still in Martha's Vineyard and now she resides in a lovely house built in 1849 that once belonged to a sea captain.  

Martha's Vineyard, here I come!  (If only as an imagined traveler at present.)


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