The Siege of Salt Cove

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In a work reminiscent of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town (1938) and Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology (1915), Anthony Weller lets his characters tell the story of a confrontation between the residents of Salt Cove, Massachusetts, and the state bureaucrats who plan to replace the Cove’s quaint wooden bridge with a modern concrete and steel monstrosity. The many voices in The Siege of Salt Cove create the world of a small coastal town on Cape Sarah north of Boston. Full of local gossip and mistrustful curiosity about summer people and new residents, including Toby Auberon and Scott Mahren, they eventually lead the protest against the Commonwealth’s encroachments. Arranging their narratives is the seventy-two-year-old Jessica Stoddard, a life-long Salt Cove resident, self- appointed chronicler of the siege.

Jessica’s storytelling work is entertaining and self-conscious as she collates, and perhaps invents, statements to tell the story of resistance to governmental incursion that masked a nearby land-grab and the plan to use Salt Cove’s proposed new bridge as an easier access to new housing developments further along the Cape.

Told with abundant humor, the story of how Toby, a drop-out lawyer, galvanized the townspeople to secede from the United States, resisted the armed invasion by the National Guard, disarmed explosives set under the bridge, and ferreted out the machinations of the Lieutenant Governor is compellingly artful. The locals and the outlanders, eccentrics all, have their quirks, foibles, and tricks of speech on parade in their memoirs of the Cove’s rebellion and the state’s mindless response.

In this inventive work Weller reveals himself as a master of localisms, creating many different character voices and often hilarious turns of phrase, from the lyrical to the mundane.