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Pocketful of Names: A Novel

4.11  ·  Rating Details  ·  771 Ratings  ·  144 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 an
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Graywolf Press (first published 2005)
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Jun 23, 2009 Robyn rated it it was amazing
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 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
Mar 01, 2012 Knitme23 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 06, 2010 Herb rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 30, 2012 Cherylann rated it liked it
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
Jul 27, 2015 Homira rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Really slogged through it, but the best character was the dog, which got no more air time after the beginning. Main protagonist, Hannah appeared self-absorbed and selfish in not wanting to share the sanctuary and solitude of her island. Not a fun character despite excuses of early trauma and loss. I've seen worse. Sad, I was hopeful about his writing. The scenery and weather were lovely, writing strong, just plot and characters needed hammering out.

Beth G
Jun 10, 2013 Beth G rated it liked it
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
May 23, 2013 Jack rated it liked it
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
Feb 05, 2015 Sharon rated it liked it
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
Sep 04, 2008 Dina rated it really liked it
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
Jan 29, 2014 Anna rated it liked it
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
Dec 18, 2015 Nannette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 11, 2013 Anne rated it it was amazing
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.
May 17, 2009 Sharon rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 16, 2012 Denise rated it did not like it
Couldn't finish it. The writing and the dialogue seemed erratic and it was hard to like any of the main characters.
Linda  Branham Greenwell
May 29, 2012 Linda Branham Greenwell rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 23, 2013 Shauna rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 18, 2009 Peggy rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 24, 2014 Nancy rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 10, 2015 Jan rated it did not like it
This book was recommended to me by a friend who reads a lot and liked it but I did not which really surprised me. However, my friend is obviously in the majority since most of the reviews were four and five stars which made me question why I did not like it. I thought it was way too long filled with too many uninteresting details and the characters were boring with the exception of the dog. To be honest I could barely slog through it.
Oct 26, 2015 Margaret rated it it was amazing
Love Joe Coomer books, any of them. I haven't read any in a few years and came across this title sitting on the returned books at the library. So glad I picked his books up again. Love the characters. It's a quiet story no huge action scenes, but don't be fooled it's a huge page turner. You can't wait to see what happens to Hannah, Driftwood her dog, Will, Emily, Tom and the rest of the cast of characters on this quiet Maine island. The descriptions are beautiful, makes you feel and hear the oce ...more
Feb 17, 2015 Becky rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 30, 2013 Kay rated it really liked it
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
Dec 20, 2010 Diana rated it really liked it
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 really liked it
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
Aug 16, 2014 Kim Mcgair rated it really liked it
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
Feb 25, 2010 Marv Himmel rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 21, 2013 Elaina rated it it was amazing
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
Wendi Kali
Oct 24, 2015 Wendi Kali rated it it was amazing
I had a hard time putting this book down once I started reading it. The story is captivating and wonderful. I was so engaged with it I cried at certain parts. Wonderfully written and wonderful characters.
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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
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