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Stern Men

3.37  ·  Rating Details ·  4,183 Ratings  ·  533 Reviews
On two remote islands off the coast of Maine, the local lobstermen have fought savagely for generations over the fishing rights to the ocean waters between them. Young Ruth Thomas is born into this feud, a daughter of Fort Niles destined to be at war with the men of Courne Haven. Smart as a whip at eighteen and irredeemably unromantic, Ruth returns home from boarding schoo ...more
Hardcover, Large Print, 566 pages
Published December 3rd 2005 by Thorndike Press (first published 2000)
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(showing 1-30)
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I respect Elizabeth Gilbert as a writer--a lot. Her dialogue jumps off the page, her descriptions are taut and humorous. But I do feel that this book reveals a young author trying to find her groove. There are some plot points that fall short, and the character arcs only develop fully in the epilogue. About a third of the plot of the book seemed to fall into the last chapter. That being said, I'm becoming more and more interested in reading various writer's early work, mostly because the flaws s ...more
Jodi Maples, MSW, LSW
Perhaps it was my love of her other book, Eat, Pray, Love, that made me not completely love this book. If 1/2 stars were an option, I would have gone with 3 1/2 stars, so I'm rounding up. It was an interesting read...characters were well written, but there was no one I was emotionally invested in (although I loved Kitty, the drunken "aunt"). It seems that perhaps there is more commonality between classes than between geographic groups...this was about a small, lower-middle class community on the ...more
Jun 23, 2011 Grace rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Generally, when describing books I try to use more specific language, but in this case my opinion of Stern Men after reading it can be summed up in one word- Weird. I slogged through it, but the book never really completely grabbed me. It had some of the trappings of the things I look for in a good novel; artful writing, an intriguing cast of characters, enigmatic plot twists, but I never really came to a basic understanding of the character of Ruth Thomas. One moment she is full of sass and wry ...more
Nov 22, 2010 Baljit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gilbert deserves far more credit for this novel than for her much publicised 'Eat, Pray, Love' and wishy-washy 'Commited'. In 'Stern Men' she takes us into the very heart and soul of this isolated island community of lobstermen. The subject, Ruth Thomas, is a fiesty young lady who is determined to stay on the island and join the gruff seamen in pursuit of lobsters. Here Gilbert delves into the dubiuos ancestery of Ruth, the longstanding fued between the people of the neighbouring island and the ...more
Nov 17, 2009 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My wife, the daughter of a lobsterman in Maine, bought this book after seeing Elizabeth Gilbert speak. After she'd read it I picked it up casually, not really expecting to read it. I was surprised by how quickly it grabbed me and how much I loved the book. I suppose living in coastal Maine with my 20+ years of exposure to a family tied to island living and lobstering allowed me to picture each and every character perfectly. A great ending, too.
This is Elizabeth Gilbert's first fiction effort. This is not Eat, Pray, Love. Not at all. If you want Eat, Pray, Love ... read that book and not this one. The men here are not sexy. Our female protagonist doesn't travel far and wide. There is no pasta. Don't read Stern Men and complain that you're not getting Eat, Pray, Love. If you need that EPL tie-in to make it through the day, this was probably one of the books that caused Gilbert to constantly owe money to her ex-husband for the rest of he ...more
Aug 05, 2008 Catherine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008, mainstream-us
I adore this book. It takes a little getting into - the history of lobster fishing off the shores of Maine that begins the novel is necessary to the plot, but a little dry (or perhaps it's that, as yet, we have no idea which characters to hang our hats on). But quickly it becomes one of those books that you cannot put down. The characters are utterly unique - and I think that's one of the things I enjoyed most about the book; that each character was fully formed, with backstory, a pattern of spe ...more
Nov 28, 2013 Jennifer rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-books
having just read gilbert's newest novel, 'the signature of all things', i wanted to go back and re-read this book, her novel that came out in 2000. it's fine. there are some similarities to the newer novel: strong female lead; a family with money, working in/with, & understanding nature. but this earlier works is not quite fully realized, and kinda bumpy along the way. but, the setting is so interesting and gilbert has a few characters i really enjoyed.

* edited for typo. original review writ
Feb 13, 2016 Lejla rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016, i-own
I had a lot of expectation from this book. But I didn't like it very much.Actually, Ruth anoyed me in some situations and that is unlike me. Although, I really liked the epilog, that was the best part of the book. So sorry but only 3 stars from me
Jun 12, 2008 Jessica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone looking for modern day Charles Dickensesque storytelling
Shelves: 2008-books
Here is fair warning: If you are looking for a book to fill the hole left by Eat, Pray, Love, reading Stern Men is like trying to shove a square lobster trap into that round hole. It doesn't quite fit the bill.

I really wanted to like this book. After Eat, Pray, Love I thought it would be a pretty sure bet that I would love almost anything the Elizabeth Gilbert set down on paper, and I was eager to check out her earlier work of fiction.

What this book does well:
You can almost smell the salt air
Rebecca Foster
Sep 10, 2011 Rebecca Foster rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I wish certain books could be fitted with a big neon light flashing “NOT WORTH IT” so I wouldn’t waste my time. There is nothing wrong with this novel, per se; however, it was likened to John Irving but has none of his spark – the characters are pointlessly, boringly idiosyncratic; the incidents felt clichéd and the language either dull or silly. Gilbert’s trying for quirky New England family comedy crossed with chick lit, but I don’t get it. Give me John Irving any day.

[With apologies for the r
Oct 08, 2007 Carrie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Elizabeth Gilbert is, truly, an amazing writer. She has developed some colorful, lifelike characters, and you can see the journalist in her with the meticulous research she did for the book. Its only shortfall in my mind is in the storytelling...the yarn at the center of it isn't developed well enough to make it the page-turner I think it might otherwise be.
Apr 19, 2017 Sofia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Este livro foi uma desilusão para mim. Após ler o Comer, orar e amar, fiquei cheia de vontade de ler mais obras da autora e comecei por este livro, e não gostei. A história não é nada demais, apesar de se ler bem, não achei muito interessante. A personagem principal é feminista e com uma personalidade bastante forte o que ajudou a ler o livro, mesmo assim deixa muito aquém...
Ron Charles
Jan 01, 2014 Ron Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It turns out Annie Proulx went too far in "The Shipping News." You don't have to go all the way to Newfoundland to find irresistibly quirky people living off the cold sea. Elizabeth Gilbert found them in Maine.

In "Stern Men," her first novel, Gilbert describes the contentious battles between lobstermen living on Fort Niles and Courne Haven, two almost identical islands 20 miles off the coast. These are places inhabited by quiet men who carry a big claw.

As Gilbert wittily suggests at the start of
Beverly Fox
May 28, 2013 Beverly Fox rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
*Disclaimer: As always, this review contains spoilers so if you want to read this novel with bated breath don't read this review. (Not that this is that kind-of book anyway, but just in case.)

Anyone who follows my reviews here knows that I am a huge fan of Elizabeth Gilbert which is why it pains me to say that I really, genuinely did not like this book. I might go so far as to say that I hated it.

It isn't because her writing was sub-par in any way. Gilbert shows the same astounding gift for dia
Schuyler Wallace

I recently read and reviewed Elizabeth Gilbert’s “The Signature of All Things,” just finished “Stern Men,” and have “the Last American Man” waiting for me. You could say that Elizabeth Gilbert has smote me.

“Stern Men” is her first novel, published in 2000, and is very different from “Signature.” It’s an earthy, profane, and witty study of Maine lobstermen, a total contrast to her intense account of a brilliant woman botanist who is at odds with the normal world. This book is about an equally dri
Nov 11, 2015 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was prompted to read "Stern Men" after reading Gilbert's "Signature of All Things". I love her narrative style, and this one certainly did not disappoint. Unlike many readers/reviewers here on Good Reads, I wasn't immensely inspired by "Eat Pray Love", and I would advise that if you are looking for anything like that with this book, you're looking in the wrong place.

For one thing, this is Gilbert's first foray into fiction, and I would say that she was successful with a fun and engrossing tal
3, 5 stars

Elizabeth is one of my favorite writers and because of that, I need to read every book she ever wrote and will ever write. She is one of my favorite writers for a lot of things, but one of them is because of her writing. I love how versatile her writing is - how she writes memoirs, writes fiction, writes non-fiction all with the same wonderful style. She has a peculiar writing and that is especially noticeable when she writes fiction. Stern Men certainly shows that and people who are f
Aug 09, 2009 Teea rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is really a 2.5. I can only relate it to eating sunflower seeds.....a whole lot of work for very little pleasure. True to lobster men vocab the conversations are liberally seasoned with the mother of all words. So, I became quite efficient at reading over them as well as the Lords name in vain. ugh.... I hate that. The story is "artistically" choppy. The stories of the islanders are intertwined and then smooshed together to give you an "inside" look into their complex (or simple) lives. By ...more
Josh Gould
Oct 28, 2014 Josh Gould rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading other reviews, I have a feeling that (completely by accident) I am reading Elizabeth Gilbert's books in the right order. It seems that a lot of people who read Eat Pray Love first are disappointed in this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course, I agree with the comparisons to John Irving, one of my favorites. My only wish is that she had written out the plot rather than taking it to a climax and then stuffing half of the plot line into an epilogue. I would have been completely satisfie ...more
May 24, 2010 Jean rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Having spent summers since my birth on a small Maine coast island similar to Fort Niles, I am very familiar with the lobster wars, and eagerly anticipated listening to this book. But what I found was a monotonous chronology of events which left me completely unengaged. What little personal conversation occurred between the characters often involved a prolonged litany of expletives, as if the author could not think of anything else for them to say. Although the author repeatedly made a point of t ...more
Mar 03, 2011 Frieda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to read more Elizabeth Gilbert after Eat, Pray, Love, so randomly chose this book to read next. I'm glad I didn't look at the reviews, because I might have been dissuaded. It took awhile to get into, but once I did, I loved it. The main character is very likable and funny, and there were many hilarious moments throughout. It was an unusual book, and it impressed me that she made lobster fishing, something I would have thought would be very boring, very interesting and entertaining. Ther ...more
Aug 08, 2013 Joey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literacy-fiction
Excellent story! I really like Ruth and his father. I am so glad that their relationship improved after Ruth's pregnancy.
The book taught me a lesson. You can make a way out when you are smart and determined. Nearly all people expect and want Ruth to go to college. But no, she doesn't. She like her hometown and she likes fishing lobster. And in the end with her wit, she is very successful. She even makes other villagers successful. I am very proud of her confrontation with her influential grandf
Rachel Bremer
I bought this book from a decide hand book shop in the town of Cape Coast, Ghana, because I had left the other book I was reading on the plane. I wasn't expecting much, but I liked Eat, Pray, Love so I thought I'd give it a try. It's not going to win any awards but the writing was very smart and I laughed out loud all the way through. Very sarcastic, witty, entertaining dialogue and you really get a good picture of these tiny lobster obsessed islands off the coast of Maine, and the odd people wh ...more
Monica Fumarolo
More thoughts to come, but for now I'll just say that I did enjoy this story and style of prose, but wasn't a particular fan of the pacing. Most of the novel felt like backstory and though the pace of the plot did pick up in the second half, the conclusion felt comparatively rushed, lacking the careful attention to detail that the first 2/3rds received. I'm glad I got this from the library and found it to be a fine one-time read.
Julianne Dunn
May 16, 2014 Julianne Dunn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a pretty good book about life on a pair of islands entirely populated by lobster fishers and focuses on one girl who is both part of the community and yet isn't. Her struggle to find her place and figure out what she wants to do next with her life is pretty interesting. Unfortunately, the book just kind of ends abruptly.
Antoaneta Mitrusheva
Добра идея, интересни герои и хубав като замисъл сюжет, но толкова зле изпълнени. Сякаш това е била първата чернова и Гилбърт никога повече не се е върнала да работи по книгата, нито пък някой редактор се е докоснал до нея. Разпиляна като повествование, неубедителна на много места, недоработена. Прочетох я докрай, но не си заслужаваше.
Giss Golabetoon
Jun 11, 2016 Giss Golabetoon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
well, i have never read eat pray love and i didn't like the movie, but i took up this debut novel because the writing interested me.
Gilbert has many qualities of prominent american writers before her and she lays out the story beautifully, easy to red, funny at times and interesting story line to follow.
Sep 30, 2008 susi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely wasn't my favorite Elizabeth Gilbert story,(I absolutely LOOOVED Eat, Pray, Love + The Last American Man) but I must say many times I couldn't put the book down, and her wonderful interesting characters, images of life on a Maine island, and funny quirky story stayed with me long after I finished reading Stern Men.
Aug 26, 2015 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really like Elizabeth Stern as a fiction writer - probably more than the Eat,Pray,Love that everyone is drawn to. I enjoyed this story but felt like the ending was just tacked on to finish the story. I still enjoyed her characters and was a great summer read.
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Stern Men 5 41 Apr 20, 2013 11:05AM  
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Elizabeth Gilbert is an award-winning writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Her short story collection Pilgrims was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award, and her novel Stern Men was a New York Times notable book. Her 2002 book The Last American Man was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critic’s Circle Award.

Her memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, spent 57 weeks in the #1
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“As humans, after all, we become that which we seek. Dairy farming makes men steady and reliable and temperate; deer hunting makes men quiet and fast and sensitive; lobster fishing makes men suspicious and wily and ruthless.” 4 likes
“It was the Senator's opinion that a good, peppery chicken soup could cure anything, even childbirth, so he cooked up a nice batch for Stanley Thomas's wife.” 1 likes
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