LITERATURE

The Penny Poet of Portsmouth: A Memoir of Place, Solitude, and Friendship

Counterpoint. Mar. 2016. 272p. ISBN 9781619027121. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781619027619. MEMOIR
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While this memoir's subtitle announces that it is about place, solitude, and friendship, it's also about writing, and what one gains or forgoes to write. In the early Nineties, Towler moves to Portsmouth, NH, with her fiancé and becomes a fixture in the community, without quite realizing that she's doing so. In her evolution from outsider to insider, she befriends a local poet and eccentric, Robert Dunn, talented in his own right but not widely recognized. In him, she recognizes some of her own writerly, solitary tendencies. However, the friendship also highlights their differences. Towler buys a house with her husband, adopts a cat, joins literary circles. Dunn, on the other hand, lives an ascetic lifestyle—he owns very little, has a wide circle of acquaintances, lives on Portsmouth's margins. Dunn and Towler's relationship grows both strained and strong as Dunn's health declines and Towler is thrust into managing his medical care.
VERDICT The author writes with great honesty about the challenges of caring for someone who can be a difficult patient. Readers with an interest in pursuing "the writing life," or who have struggled with caring for aging relatives or friends, will appreciate this open look at the subjects.

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