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Pocketful of Names Hardcover – May 12, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Coomer (One Vacant Chair) weighs solitude against companionship and explores how "people can interfere with the smooth running of your life" in this artfully crafted but long-winded novel. Hannah Bryant, 34, is a successful artist living and painting on a rocky Maine isle. With her parents dead and her younger half-sister, Emily, in a strict religious order, her closest relative had been her great-uncle Arno, with whom she'd spent several summers on Ten Acres No Nine Island, hers when he died. Hannah relishes her seclusion and has "kept the island inviolable," with the exception of someone who's been mysteriously digging holes and a dog, Driftwood, who has washed ashore. When Emily writes to her about a boy in trouble who needs a place to hide, Hannah's staunchly guarded privacy begins to crumble. When more people arrive, they open closets to reveal all sorts of skeletons—about Arno's drug business and Hannah's art sales in particular—but, mired in detail and stretched across too many pages, the surprises may not be enough to sustain the reader interest. Coomer is a graceful writer, though, conveying natural beauty and emotional turmoil with equal polish. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Coomer's sixth novel lacks the comic zest of his previous effort, One Vacant Chair (2003), as it tracks the arduous emotional growth of a reclusive artist. Hannah Weed is perfectly content living by herself on an island off the coast of Maine, left to her by her lobsterman uncle. Her artwork sells briskly at a gallery in New York, which allows her to devote all of her time to her creative pursuits. Then an old charmer of a dog washes ashore, followed some months later by an abused teenager. One human connection leads to another, and soon Hannah is hosting Thanksgiving dinner, aiding the rescue efforts of a whale-watch group, and providing shelter for her pregnant half-sister. When Hannah finds out who has been purchasing her art, her identity as a creative person is forever altered, and she begins to seriously question the way she has led her life. The pace of this overly long novel is slow, but Coomer excels at evoking the attractions of solitude versus the meaning of home and connection. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press; First Edition edition (June 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555974236
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555974237
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #453,531 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am an avid reader, yet, I had not heard of Joe Coomer. I live in Maine, and a local bookshop owner showed a proof copy of the book to me and said, "You have to read this book," and so I did. The book was a delight! Not only is the story full of twists, turns, memorable characters (you will fall in love with Mr. Beal, and a Black Labrador Retriever), it is a wonderful depiction of life on one of Maine's many islands. The surrounding areas, the sea, lobster fishing are all described in accurate and charming detail.

If you've ever longed to visit Maine, if you love the sea and its mysteries, if you've ever wondered what it's like to live on an island, if you love animals, if you want to be spellbound from beginning to end of a book, and if you want to take a memorable journey with Hannah, add Joe Coomer to your own pocketful of names.
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Format: Hardcover
The greatest thing about Joe Coomer's writing is that he makes us "feel." In the two books that I've read, I found the plots well-constructed, the characters and dialogue "true-to-life," and the scenery description so vivid that I wanted to take my next vacation in that exact setting.

And he has not let his readers down in this book that's set on the rugged coastline of Maine. I feel like dashing there the minute I finish this review. A wondrous place!

In this well-crafted book, my heart went out to Hannah, an artist whose solitary existence on an island was interrupted in the worst possible way: with too many people suddenly descending on her way of life.

One of the most endearing characters was Driftwood, the lovable mutt who drifted in on the tide. He was good for Hannah ... but were the other unexpected visitors: the teen-aged runaway, her sister, the mainland family? And how does a trapped whale fit in?

What secrets do these newcomers discover? And how does Hannah handle the new emotional challenges?

Well, you will just have to read the book to see for yourself.

Meanwhile, I'm going to read "The Loop," Coomer's book that's being made into a movie starring Penelope Cruz. Can't wait to read this book, then see the movie.

Coomer has accomplished what every author dreams of: a book being made into a movie! Way to go, Joe!
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Format: Hardcover
I was introduced to Joe Coomer with his only non-fiction book "Dream House-On Building a House by a Pond" which I had picked up because I was in a fit of remodeling a hundred-year-old house and wanted to hear someone else's horror stories. As it turned out it wasn't horrific but rather funny. Intrigued, I found copies of his first books, "The Decatur Road," "Kentucky Love" and "A Flatland Fable" which were wonderful. But the deal was sealed when I read "The Loop", about a quirky guy who traveled the looping interstate around Dallas-Ft Worth every night to pick up road kill, who had a wily old parrot show up at his screen door. That's Coomer's style, just a little off center.

I just finished "Pocketful of Names" last night and am already feeling the loss. Joan Didion said "When I'm near the end of a good book, I need to sleep in the same room with it." I would go so far as to say, I would want to have this book permanently shelved next to my bed.

I'm not going to tell you the story (read it, you'll find out what it's about). I am going to tell you that it is rich with pure language. There are no superfluous words between the covers of this book. It is a purely readable treat of depth and character and subtle wisdoms. I found myself rereading whole paragraphs just to savor them. If you've never read any of Joe Coomer's fiction, I don't know if I would start with this book. That would be like trying on the perfect dress first, and then you loose that growing excitement as it builds from book to book. Start from the beginning. You won't regret the time spent in Joe's company.
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Format: Hardcover
Hannah Bryant, artist and recluse, embodies the atmosphere of the Maine island she occupies. Proud, isolated, prickly, rugged, driven and moody, she fiercely guards her solitary life, patrolling her island against invaders and incorporating the place into her art.

"She craved isolation, and thought an island the most productive place for her to work as an artist. Focused. Find a center and stand there and work in place. The natural barrier of the sea would not only keep her in place but repel others, all those who felt the need to praise or critique her work, to talk about art rather than live it."

Her patrols of the island are not just to chase off tourist kayakers, but also a defense against an unknown invader who digs holes on her fragile island, mysterious, pointless holes. Hannah has never succeeded in catching sight of this intruder, but the sight of a new hole always shakes her.

Caught up in Coomer's graceful, muscular prose, the reader soon absorbs his sense of place and feels at home inside Hannah's head. Although the story is told in the third person (but from Hannah's point of view) this identification between place and protagonist imbues the story with a salty, windswept romanticism.

Hannah, despite her rigidity, unfriendliness and pretension, claims our interest and sympathy from the first, when she discovers an old dog washed up in the disused quarry at the center of her little island. "The first thing Hannah said to the dog: `I don't know if there's enough room for you on this island. I'm already here.' " Of course she is also calculating how to get the exhausted dog out of the quarry, though a part of her already shies from the distraction of affection. Hannah is not a person who cuts herself a lot of slack.
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