... graceful and compassionate ... While Brown plants his flag in fiction, the circumstances in Maine are very real and still unsettled ... What emerges from the ashes of the mill’s demise are broken relationships between human and land, but also the capacity for forgiveness and exoneration, which Brown signposts with flowers emerging from the mill’s scorched soil. Brown’s most urgent story, however, is one that has largely been untold — a modern day Penobscot Nation reckoning with the manacles of the past.
... weaves together the lush setting of the Penobscot River in Maine and disparate characters struggling to coexist on a verdant, alluring land ... profound truths, the mournful beauty of the land, and mythologies encoded within the people who live there are revealed.
In Gregory Brown's debut novel, The Lowering Days the weight of the past bears down with a vengeance on its tortured characters ... As much as Brown invests his work with realistic detail about the natural world and the worlds of fishing, aviation and more, he's a mythmaker at heart. As a novelist, he's half Barry Lopez, half Louise Erdrich ... Brown writes a fluid, lyrical prose that escorts us deep into the emotional lives of his characters. Yet he undercuts his story several times when his plotting veers off course ... Brown is juggling a lot of important themes in addition to the past's heavy hand on the present: environmental degradation, the shameful treatment of Native Americans, toxic masculinity, the torch-passing from one generation to the next. And they threaten to undermine the book's coherence.Yet the author still manages to elevate the central conflict ...
This dichotomy—between a mystical appreciation for the natural world and the environmentally extractive nature of work and industry—pervades Brown’s beautiful if uneven debut ... Like many debuts, Brown’s first novel is imperfect. His dialogue sometimes veers toward preciousness at the expense of character development; his characters are often too accurately aware of the wider themes that shape their lives; and the plot moves through increasingly convenient contortions as it hurtles toward its foreseeable crescendo. Yet despite these shortcomings, Brown tells a gripping tale. And in his hands the Penobscot region of the 1980s and '90s—with its eccentric cast of Vietnam veterans, hippy fugitives, gruff lobstermen, and Penobscot tribal members—comes wonderfully to life ... Mystical, gripping, rooted in the land—Brown may bang a little too hard on the keys, but he plays a compelling tune.
... dynamic ... Brown poetically depicts the bucolic backdrop and grounds the action amid forested hillsides 'deep and green and smoky with the scent of pine.' Lyrical and gorgeously written, Brown’s memorable outing does justice to a complicated web of issues.