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Pocketful of Names: A Novel

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  713 ratings  ·  133 reviews
"Coomer is clearly an author of serious talent." --The Washington Post Book World

Inhabiting an island off the coast of Maine left to her by her great-uncle Arno, Hannah finds her life as a dedicated and solitary artist rudely interrupted one summer when a dog, matted with feathers and seaweed, arrives with the tide. He is only the first of a series of unexpected visitors a
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Graywolf Press (first published 2005)
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I loved this book. It's a story of art, nature, the sea, identity, love, hate, loss, loneliness, home, many conflicting but also complementary notions. An artist, solitary, successful, lives alone on an island off Maine. Slowly people, the past, the world inflict themselves on her and everything changes. Change is always difficult and here we see multiple processes of change--in the human and natural world. This book kept me enthralled. I believe I will want to read it again.

As in One Vacant Cha
This is the third Joe Coomer novel I've read, and it tops them all as my favorite yet! The story revolves around an artist named Hannah who lives as a hermit on a small island off the coast of Maine that was left to her by an uncle. She has items she needs shipped in and makes a living shipping her art out to a gallery that sells it for her, so she sees no need to ever leave her island or establish relationships with anyone. A series of events occurs that interrupt Hannah’s existence as she has ...more
I read Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God a long time ago and still remember it as an interesting, complex, well-written novel (and since the boys were little kids at that point, remembering the book is a huge testimonial to its quality!). When I stopped into our local bookstore for its going-out-of-business sale, I spotted this Coomer work and decided to try it--and I am glad I did!

The novel centers around a main character who has isolated herself on the tiny island she inherited from a belove
I read Coomer's "A Flatland Fable" many, many years ago, and loved its description of an unlovable East Texas landscape. But that's been a long time, so when I saw this book on the feature table at my local indie bookseller, I had to do some digging to make sure that I got the name right. And, boy howdy, I'm glad I did.

This is the best novel I've read in three or four years. Coomer is a master of an understated, rural form of magical realism. In this case, Hannah, a quiet artist alone on her inh
I'm not sure exactly how I feel about this book. I sense that with discussion, I might appreciate it more than I did when I finished it, but I don't have that luxury. First, I wasn't 100% sure what the exact problem was in the novel. There are certainly conflicts, but I was struggling with the "big" conflict. So I don't know if I'm happy with the resolution. Secondly, this is clearly a character driven novel, but I don't feel that any of the characters were overly developed. I felt that they sta ...more
Beth G
I was interested in this book because it is set in the islands off of Stonington Maine, one of my
favorite places in the world. I was also intrigued with the central character who chooses to live in almost complete isolation year round on one of these islands. She is not on the island for long before all sorts of visitors start popping up or washing ashore. I never tired of the author's descriptions of the area but I have to say that the central character and her life wore on me. The read was a f
This is a story of hermits and exiles, so it is fitting that the main character lives on an island. For exiles, they communicate beautifully. The dialog sometimes feels like psychologically rich poems punctuating long silences. Each character suffers a loss and must overcome grief. As the pattern plays out, you start waiting for the next loss-redemption cycle, but the story is so engrossing and believable that you don't mind watching the characters get knocked down in sequence.

I put all other bo
I have to admit, I was a bit concerned with all the adjectives in the prologue. Once I got past that, I fell in love with the book. I definitely recommend those who are Mainers or are in love with Maine as a whole to read this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. One more admission - never heard of this author or book until it became the book of the month for the local library book club. I plan to see what else this author has written.
I love Joe Coomer....from my first reading of Beachcombing, I've loved him madly. Though I couldnt imagine a book that would knock One Vacant Chair off the top of my most favored book list, this one has done it. It's amazing, and the first book I've ever immediately reread to pick it clean of any delicious tidbits I missed on the first read.
Linda  Branham Greenwell
Joe Coomer has a gift for creating characters that are living through an unpleasant time in their lives and then slowly revealing their humanity through the various losses they suffer. The characters pull you in so you feel as if you know them. Hannah is the main character - and she isolates herself on Deere Island in Maine - wanting to retreat from the world - she fiercely guards her solitary life, patrolling her island against invaders and incorporating the place into her art.
Hannah, despite h
There is nothing I didn't like about this book. I love Coomer's use of words as tools to build a picture. The characters are fascinating and real enough to relate to. This book defies definition; it's not about art or dogs or hermits or loss. It's about life, about living.

Favorite word pictures:

"The leaves downward hurry left the sea's surface fall-splattered and tannin-drunk."

"He seemed to offer compliments as offhandedly as he might puck a blade of grass, as if they cost him nothing."

"The blac
This book was recommended to me. I enjoyed it very much. I seem to like books about strong women. Wish I could trade places with the main character, Hannah, and live be myself on an island sometimes.

The story revolves around Hannah, an artist, who inherits her uncle, Arno Weed's, small island in Main. There, she happily paints and sculpts, and stays away from almost everyone in the area. She has her groceries and mail delivered. She enjoys being by herself until her sister sends an abused teena
There are few books that impress me deeply enough to merit a 5-star rating. Mr. Coomer's masterful command of language and his ability to create a deeply felt sense of place earn this novel a place amongst my favorites. While the main character is, at best, prickly, she is also believable and realistically flawed. I confess, I liked her best in her early incarnations, before her horizons had been stretched, but her growth and resistance to that growth ring true. I also like that Mr. Coomer does ...more
This is the kind of book that confuses me. It's very readable and engaging but feels like I just ate white bread when I'm done. I didn't believe any of the characters. Will is just way too good to be true given his family circumstances but a nice character to read about all the same. It all ended a bit quickly with everything wrapped up neatly in a way that both did and didn't make sense. I was amused by the idea of an 80+ year old selling amphetamines to younger lobstermen! Is that possible? We ...more
This story is set on an island off the coast of Maine that is actually owned by the author. The premise intrigued me when I bought this a while ago. All the characters are damaged in some way. Aside from the plot lines that were complex and intertwined, this book also sets up a number of questions about life. Can one live without others? Does everyone harbor secrets? What is art? What does it mean to be an artist? The politics and taxation of land in Maine? Distrust of others? Distrust of outsid ...more
W.O.W..... This book was amazing, it's my favorite of all my recent books. This is the story of an artist who thinks she has a good life, living alone as a hermit on an island off the coast of Maine. Then the dog comes, then the teenage boy, and on and on until she is surrounded by an unlikely cast of likable characters and she learns to love as her world expands. The writing is so perfect, the characters are all flawed but lovable each in their own way..... On every page in almost every sentenc ...more
Lots of this book involves descriptions of the ocean, actually the coastline of the ocean and islands, and the lure of living on the sea. The book is set on an island off of Stonington, Maine; a small community where the people all know each other and fish or lobster for a living. The main character Hannah lives alone on the island 3 miles off the coast, but is soon involved in the lives of three people and a dog who come to live with her because they need to get away from something or to start ...more
My choice for "A book a friend recommended"

I thought because a fellow dog lover recommended the book and because of its cover, it would be about a dog. The prologue was really an emotional read for me. I started reading the book waiting for the story about the dog. As each character was introduced, I kept asking myself "where is this going?" I still was looking for the story about the dog. Half way through the book, I was tempted to not finish reading it but decided it was worth finding out wher
This is a complex tale which grabbed me like an octopus and released me after four intense days. Although the author is not a Maine coast native, he captures the essence of the Deer Isle fishing community very well. There are some low points about 1/3 of the way through when the heroine artist is adjusting to having a teen-ager living in her house. These sections are melodramatic and lack reality for me.

But overall the story explores some valuable themes. What is the purpose of art? Is it impor
Mar 28, 2010 Michelle rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Any Book Club!
Recommended to Michelle by: Kim C
Shelves: myfavorites
I loved this book but found that I read it much slower than my usual pace. About halfway through, I realized it was because I was re-reading so many lines, so many paragraphs - and that was simply because there was so much to take from this novel. The analogies, the descriptions... they were incredible. "The shirt was working out of his pants, like a pack of dogs backing out from underneath a low fence."
And... "It occurred to her that she met everyone as if their first words to her were the las
Deon Stonehouse
Pocketful of Names by Joe Coomer is a fabulous book. Hannah lives alone on the small Maine island she inherited from her Uncle Arno, a fisherman. Hannah believes her art is the driving force of her life. She is confident that she creates art for the sake of art alone, that she is not influenced by praise or rejections. She believes she is truly independent, not needing approval or help from anyone. Her perceptions are about to be challenged. Life starts to change with the arrival of a dog from t ...more
Kim Mcgair
The character development in this book is just wonderful, Coomer slowly reveals the characters and you come to love them over time and deeply. Loved this book and didn't want it to end.
Marv Himmel
Wow! What a great read. It isn't very often that I find a book that isn't driven by any great mystery, suspense, or drama and yet turns into one of the best books I have read in a long time. It is the story of an artist who has retreated to an island off the coast of Maine to pursue her work and to isolate herself from the rest of the world. One day an older dog washes up on the shore, then a teenage boy running from his abusive father, and soon her religious half-sister. It is the story of how ...more
One of my new all time favorites. This book shows how important people are in your life even though you think you are best on your own . An artist realizes that even when all else seems to be a lie, even who you are, the ones closest to you will always be there for you. This artist feels as though she has everything going for her on her own island and now that things have changed, though it may not have seemed for the best at first, she wouldn't of had it any other way. Trough this novel she rea ...more
Cindy Lakatos
This was an enjoyable read. It took place on an island off the coast of Maine. The granite quarry and salt water marine life made me want to escape to there. It seemed beautiful. And then there were the characters. Hannah was a loner artist who preferred to be by herself. But over time, people ( and a wonderful old dog) enter and enrich her life. They bring love and happiness to her, causing her to not prefer being alone anymore. The plot had some mystery to it too, which was nice. All in all, t ...more
What a fabulous evocation of the Maine coast. Dialog was superb. Coomer is a wise and thoughtful writer.
Kathleen Southworth
This one is between 4 and 5 stars - I may eventually bump it up to 5.

Many years ago I read Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God, loved it, then read The Loop and Apologizing to Dogs and only liked them. But I'm going back on a Joe Coomer kick now. I really don't understand why he is not a more popular author. Look forward to reading his other titles.

Anyway, I loved reading this book, I love the way this man writes. I've read some reviews complaining of how long this one is, but I thought it was p
I liked this book a lot, although I did think that, at just over 400 pages, it was a bit too long. Hannah, a 34-year-old artist lives alone on an island off the coast of Maine, and enjoys the solitude. A dog is washed onto the shore of the island, and this event seems to usher in a lot of changes. Family secrets are revealed, and soon Hannah is left to question how she has led her life. The author does a great job with characters. I could relate to all of them, and because of his skill in develo ...more
Randi Ellingboe
I picked this up for a vacation read (I was in Maine, there were dogs...) in a local bookstore. I really enjoyed this book and Coomer's writing, and plan to read more of his work. The story is something of a mystery, with some unexpected turns and questions to keep you reading, but slower paced and less violent that the typical thriller. I liked spending time with these characters and mulling over their thoughts. This was the kind of book that I was sad to finish, and I let the characters and th ...more
I really liked the book overall. It had a great added "mystery" to what I thought would be just a character story. I thought the author did a great job in getting us to really connect with the main characters (particularly Hannah). I zoomed through the book with a smile on my face ...until the somewhat confusing ending. I won't give anything away, but the ending left some unanswered questions. Overall, this was a very good book...great descriptions on the island landscape...likeable characters a ...more
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Joe Coomer is a fiction and nonfiction writer who lives outside of Fort Worth, Texas, and on the coast of Maine. He "spends his winters in Springtown, Texas, where he runs a pair of large antique malls. He lives in a fairly new Victorian house that he spent a year and a half building in the late eighties, a project he wrote about in Dream House [1991]. His wife, Isabelle Tokumaru, runs her paintin ...more
More about Joe Coomer...
Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God The Loop One Vacant Chair Apologizing to Dogs Sailing in a Spoonful of Water

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