"Island Lighthouse Inn"

Island Lighthouse Inn by Jeffrey Burke

After a cold hard winter this book felt like the first breath of spring. Really, can there be anything better than Island life with the bite of salt in the air and fresh breezes off the water? If I can't actually be there, reading about it is the next best thing.

Jeff and Judi Burke left their home in California looking for a simpler lifestyle and ended up buying an old lighthouse on a tiny island off the coast of Maine. Remote Isle au Haut didn't even have electricity but they managed to create a comfortable inn there, a spot where visitors could escape from the rat race and slow down for a time.

This book is a collection of stories about the challenges they faced getting the inn ready to open, about the sometimes quirky guests who have spent time there and about how their new life as innkeepers and island dwellers has changed them. Each chapter ends with a recipe from the Inn's menu: Downeast Blueberry Muffins, Honey Wheat Bread, Garden Tomato Soup, Judi's Apple Pie and others. Every one of them sounds worth trying.

Burke's writing was quite enjoyable to read. Some of his stories are funny, some sad, some dramatic and he has a natural way of telling them that feels realistic and relatable. He has a bit of a lyrical bent too and that adds beauty to passages like this one where he talks about gathering with his family to spread the ashes of his recently deceased mother and he closes the story with this line: "I brushed my hands together: the last clinging particles were swept away by the breeze, to the skies, to the seas, to the sands of time."  Later, referring to the over 700 creaky old windows in the lighthouse and outbuildings, he talks about the "elemental symphony" they create: "Their voices carry through the house like a grapevine of old friends sharing secrets, stories about the keepers' families who lived here through the years, recalling the sounds of love, of rage, of children growing up and old people dying. I leave them free to gossip; to silence them with oil would be an affront to their wisdom and dignity."

All in all an entertaining read full of great stories and fresh air. I definitely recommend it.


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