“A Martha’s Vineyard Love Story,” by Kathleen McGhee-Anderson and Skip Finley. $19.95 at Howasswee Shop, Aquinnah; Edgartown Books, Edgartown; and book-signing events. amvlovestory.com.
“Reunited: When the Past Becomes a Present,” by Ann Vincola Votta. Paperback, 242 pages. $11.62 from Amazon.com, reunitedalovestory.com, and appearing soon in Island bookstores.
A whole bunch of famous, colossally successful writers have never been able to write great characters of the opposite gender. For instance (let’s just say it without getting into a fistfight), Hemingway, Robert B. Parker, and, oh dear, we need a woman — shall we put forward Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, or is Frankenstein perhaps the best male character of all time?
Closer to home, Vineyard and Venice (California) screenwriter Kathleen McGhee-Anderson had an idea for a love story set over the past 50-odd summers amid the elite African-American community of Oak Bluffs. She knew she could bring to life the female protagonist without a hitch, but decided to go for the gold of the male point of view, and asked her friend Skip Finley, writer and media exec, summer visitor to the Island since 1955 and year-round Oak Bluffs resident since 1999, to tell it like it is for the young man of the saga.
Thus was a great collaboration born.
The story begins in the iconic Summer of Love of 1967 when the Four Tops sang, “I’m standing in the shadows of love, I’m getting ready for the heartaches to come.” Dale Eden, student radical, is dragged kicking and screaming to Martha’s Vineyard for the valid purpose — or so say her parents — of extracting her from the perils of “the Movement.” But there’s a major glitch to her parents’ plans: Kaylan Warner, bad boy extraordinaire, a cocky New Yorker with Island roots, is no one’s idea of a good match for the gorgeous and good Dale.
Nor are the fates so hot on the idea.
As much as Dale and Kaylan share a deep-down-to-the-bone passion for each other, other attachments, and family pressure, and life itself — that thing that famously happens when we’re making other plans — all combine to throw a spanner into the works. Through ’72, when the Temptations have “sunshine on a cloudy day,” all the way through the Stylistics’ “Betcha by golly, wow!” of the early 2000s, the reader is rooting for these two star-crossed lovers to put on their aprons and start acting like Donna Reed and Robert Young setting up house together, only with both of them bearing briefcases.
It fell to McGhee-Anderson originally to sketch out the clever plot. Both writers provide vivid characters and winning descriptions of the Vineyard: “It was already warm that morning, you could smell the hot sun on the tar, the gentle salty breeze coming off the Nantucket Sound, the newly cut grass and something indefinable, maybe the wild roses that were starting to bud on the trellis outside.” (McGhee-Anderson). “Most of the Gold Coast neighborhood houses (the Cottage City part of town) had been built in the late 1800s. None had air conditioning but with the windows open on a hot night you could catch enough of a breeze for them to be tolerable.” (Finley).
Not surprisingly, the lady author sets the tone for romance while the gentleman, whom most of us know from his irreproachable Oak Bluffs town column for the Gazette, unleashes a new hot rapper side to his writing, with sizzling language for the libidinous Kaylan. When his co-author asked for male input, she got it in spades.
You can buy copies of “A Martha’s Vineyard Love Story” at Edgartown Books while supplies last. Over the course of the past summer, Mr. Finley and Ms. McGhee-Anderson held several book signings at Cousen Rose Gallery in Oak Bluffs. Watch for it next summer, when a second printing will deliver the best beach read to be set on these shores in a long time.
There’s a second tale of romance, this one a memoir, entitled “Reunited: When the Past Becomes a Present” by Ann Vincola Votta, about two kids turning to grownups, also with summer ties to the Vineyard, who meet and greet over and over again until at last all roadblocks are cleared and these original high school sweethearts are, well, as the title says, reunited.
The story behind the Vincola/Votta nuptials was juicy enough to make it into the wedding-announcements section of the New York Times. Ann and Alan met in 1956 as 7th graders in Yonkers, N.Y. They were popular kids with a promising future ahead of them; Ann — for reasons having something to do with a cute boy in her freshman class at college — broke it off with Alan in 1961. That would have been the end of that, had they not rediscovered each other, thanks to the sleuthing wonders of Facebook. As they hooked up again decades later, they found themselves more in love than ever. They triangulated this love on a Charleston to Martha’s Vineyard to Sarasota loop, and tied the knot, which should have been wound up tight back in the ’60s, in March 2010.
At the very least, “Reunited” is a morality tale about sticking with the one you love back in the day. Alan, shaken and stirred by Ann’s sudden breakup, made a pair of disastrous choices in the marriage department. Ann’s one marriage was less than amiable. Both have children, with greater and lesser degrees of parenting success, and family mismanagement runs strong in both their stories. On a more favorable front, both made gains in their professional lives, Ann with a master’s in administration, and with an antiques store on M.V. called Tisbury, and Alan as a franchise owner and a naval officer.
For everyone who enjoys happy endings (and that category may consist of the whole of the human race), “Reunited” is a memoir to take on vacation when the weather forecast is none too bright and you neglected to pack your full-spectrum lamp; that’s how much it might cheer you up.