Spoonhandle

Published in 1946
368 pages

Spoonhandle spent fourteen weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and was made into the movie Deep Waters. Set during the Great Depression in a small Maine fishing community, Spoonhandle explores the drama of small-town living. The book follows the lives of the Stilwell family and their neighbors as they navigate the changes forced upon their little island by wealthier “summer people” looking to buy property.  Moore beautifully weaves together all the hallmarks of a great story: romance, tragedy, and family conflict. Although a work of fiction, Spoonhandle tells the real story of the economic and cultural divides that faced small towns all over America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

1. Each Stilwell sibling has a different view of the importance of reputation, freedom, and honesty. Who do you sympathize with the most, and why?

2. Hod and Agnes’s relationship is summarized by Hod thinking “If one person could be what was wrong with another one, [Agnes] was what ailed him” (page 29). Would you describe their relationship as being complete opposites or two sides of the same coin? Why?

3. Agnes treats her employees with an air of superiority, telling Hallet Romer she’d hoped he would “try to deserve a raise this Christmas” (112). Just a page later, we learn Agnes has presents for “almost everyone she [has] ever known or heard of” (113). What does this show about Agnes’s version of generosity? How about Mrs. Mckay’s strained generosity after she takes Donny in? Who is a more generous person, Mrs. Mckay or Agnes?

4. The Portland Press Herald called Spoonhandle “as relevant as ever” in today’s times. In your opinion, what makes Spoonhandle a valuable story for the present?

5. Is there ever a point when you think Donny crosses a line and becomes unforgivable in his actions when he skips chores, steals, or gives Mrs. Mackay a cookbook for Christmas? How much does Donny grow over the course of the book?

6. Myron Osgood views crime as “a submerged monster, its grim outlines trailing down into the green water as deep as the eye could see” (258). Could this also be a metaphor for any other themes of the book? What are some other examples of good people responding poorly to adverse situations in Spoonhandle?

7. Do you think Myron should have taken Pete’s offer to work for him at the new grocery store?

8. Why did Ruth Moore choose to end Spoonhandle with a sad ballad even though the ending is more positive?