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Doris Grumbach, a prolific author with Maine ties, dies at 104

Doris Grumbach at her dwelling in Sargentville in 1994. Staff picture by Jack Milton/Press Herald Archives


Doris Grumbach lived on the Maine coast for nearly twenty years and wrote a few of her best-known works in an outdated home overlooking Eggemoggin Reach.

But the author, who captured snapshots of her life within the tiny village of Sargentville in her memoirs Fifty Days of Silence and Life in a Day, did not think about herself a Maine author.

“For one thing, I’ve never written about the state except for a tiny corner of it, the bay and my house and small events like trips to the post office and the store a sixth of a mile away,” she informed the Portland Press Herald in 2000. ” The bay’s distant three acres and ever-changing moods and seasons have offered me with the mandatory local weather for inland journey. … I introduced my themes with me from a life somewhere else.”

Grumbach, who wrote about love, intercourse, faith and ageing in her novels and explored LGBTQ points, died November 4 at her dwelling in a seniors’ neighborhood in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. She was 104.

If circumstances had been completely different — and Maine winters had been much less harsh — Grumbach would have chosen to spend her life in her clapboard home overlooking the ocean in Sargentville, a village in Sedgwick, mentioned her daughter, Barbara Wheeler.

“Of all the places she lived, it was the place where she felt the most content,” Wheeler mentioned.

Grumbach survived the 1918 flu pandemic as an toddler and grew up in Manhattan, the place her father bought males’s clothes and her mom was a homemaker. After graduating from New York University in 1939 and incomes her grasp’s diploma from Cornell University in 1940, she married Leonard Grumbach and had 4 daughters. According to the Washington Post, the couple divorced in 1972.

During World War II, she joined the Naval Women’s Reserve. After the struggle she settled in Albany and commenced educating at a non-public ladies’ faculty. In the Sixties she taught English at the College of St Rose and commenced writing novels. Later in her profession, she was a literary editor, wrote opinions and essays, and taught at American University, in response to the Post.

Grumbach moved to Maine from Washington, DC in 1990 with her companion Sybil Pike, the Wayward Books, the uncommon ebook retailer they collectively owned. They opened the bookstore behind their dwelling in Sargentville, slightly below the Deer Isle Bridge. She beloved the view from her front room and the comings and goings of wildlife.

By then, in her seventies, Grumbach was spending a lot of her time in Maine writing her six memoirs, together with Fifty Days of Solitude, which explores what it means to put in writing, to be alone, and to be with one to deal with mortality.

“Maine inspired a depth of thought that wasn’t possible when she was writing and writing reviews and novels in Albany and Washington,” Wheeler mentioned.

In the winter of 1993, Grumbach determined to remain dwelling whereas Pike went on an in depth book-shopping journey. She pulled out her telephone and did not converse to anybody for 50 days. She rose early every day to put in writing after which spent her evenings studying and listening to music. She would slip into the church after the service started and go away when the final hymn was sung.

At first she didn’t intend to publish her writings from this era. When she heard that a Boston writer was on the lookout for books by authors completely different from her earlier work, she informed her editor that she had some notes on loneliness. She wasn’t positive if it was a ebook, however the editors knew instantly that fifty Days of Solitude was not simply a ebook, it was a good ebook.

Grumbach believed that to achieve success, writers needed to stand alone and be a little afraid of a clean web page, she informed the Press Herald in 1994.

“There was a reward for that deprivation,” she mentioned. “The absence of other voices forced me to listen more intensely to my inner voice.”

Outside of these days of solitude, Grumbach surrounded himself with a massive and various group of mates, mentioned Allan Sandlin, who first met Grumbach when he grew to become minister of St. Francis by the Sea Episcopal Church in Blue Hill. He and his spouse listened to Grumbach’s opinions on NPR for years and knew her voice, however have been stunned to find she was a member of the Church.

“She loved Maine and thoroughly enjoyed all of the characters, from the local lobster fishermen to other retired writers and musicians,” he mentioned. “She didn’t have much time or interest in Maine’s affluent summer residents, but was much more interested in the year-round folks in the community.”

Grumbach is a deeply considerate and inquiring thinker with a essential eye and thoughts, Sandlin mentioned. She was deeply dedicated to her household and the Yankees, and beloved string quartets.

Grumbach and Pike retired to Pennsylvania in 2008, the place they posted images from their Sargentville dwelling to take care of their view of Down East Maine. They have been unhappy to be leaving Maine, however it was the most secure possibility as they obtained older, Wheeler mentioned. Pike, Grumbach’s companion for greater than 4 many years, died in 2021.

Sandlin visited Grumbach yearly in Kennett Square, and he or she at all times requested about Maine and the folks she remembered, he mentioned. Her final go to was in September.

“She longed for Maine until she died,” Sandlin mentioned. “Every time I noticed her, it was very clear that her coronary heart was nonetheless very a lot there. Of all of the locations she has lived and the folks she has met all through her lengthy, fascinating life, it was this Maine neighborhood that she beloved essentially the most.”

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