On Tuesday, the fabulous Susan Poulin came to the Charles M. Bailey Public Library to read from her newest book, The Sweet Life: Ida LeClair’s Guide to Love & Marriage. Full disclosure: Susan and I are friends. We’ve known each other for many years, and as Susan mentioned to Shane, the adult services librarian, the first time we met, it was as though we had each found a sister.
“Kindred spirits,” I added.
Nevertheless, even if we weren’t friends and kindred spirits, I would still be a true-blue fan of hers. Susan is an incredibly gifted story teller, humorist, and performer. In fact, one of the best I’ve ever seen.
The warm and wise Ida LeClair, from the fictional Maine town of Mahoosuc Mills, is Susan Poulin’s alter ego. Ida “came” to Susan twenty years ago as a character who lived with her husband Charlie and their dog Scamp in a double-wide mobile home. But if grim images of poverty and degradation come to your mind, wipe them away. Immediately. Ida and Charlie, married right out of high school, still love each other very much. The double wide is neat and tidy, and Ida’s joie de vivre thrums through every story and performance. (This is Susan’s second book, and she has done several one-woman shows that feature Ida.)
In addition, Ida has good friends and is rooted in her community. While she and Charlie might not be wealthy, they are rich in all the things that really matter.
To get a sense of Ida’s voice, here’s an excerpt from Chapter One, page one of The Sweet Life: “I’m…a certified Maine Life Guide…The way I see it, life guiding is…like a gentle nudge in the right direction. Someone to lend a hand when you need a little help getting out of the pucker brush and back onto the trail.”
Ida, in her inimitable way, goes on to explain, “[I] f you…are ready to get up off your duff and do what needs to be done to make it happen, welcome aboard.”
Welcome aboard, indeed! As Susan noted at Bailey Library, The Sweet Life is about sharing the good life with your partner, your friends, your family. It’s also about coping with the loss of a spouse. Each chapter deals, humorously but wisely, with various aspects of relationships, and my favorite chapter title is “There is no ‘I’ in Team, but Maybe There Should Be.”
As Susan read various sections of the book, she made us laugh, and, yes, she even made us a little tearful. She ended with a scene of Ida and Charlie spending time at camp with best friends. “We eat breakfast on the screened-in porch, overlooking the lake, all of us talking and laughing. Charlie smiles and squeezes my hand, looking so relaxed. And I think, at this moment, at this place here on Moose Megantic Lake, regardless of what we have been through, everything is wonderful in our world.”
What a way to end.