With its alarming title and troubling statistics, The Last Lobster, Christopher White’s deep dive into the $1.7 billion Maine lobster industry, blares foghorn warnings about a business and a culture under threat ... Mr. White’s book is stuffed with facts as Lobster Thermidor is stuffed with claw meat and cream—also addresses climate change, supply and demand, and international trade. Above all, it offers vivid, well-observed portraits of people directly affected by lobster’s recent boom-and-bust cycles.
I ripped the envelope open, the book spilled out, and I scrambled for the Xanax. The Last Lobster Egads! I thought lobsters were like diamonds: They released only so many of an abundance to keep the market price up. And while diamonds have lots of admirable qualities, they don’t taste like a lobster. The last lobster! It had better be mine ... White spent his time looking for an authentic fishing town, then settled in. Stonington is on the Maine coast, well past the gentrification, past Acadia National Park, up where the er’s become ah’s — as in lobstah — and where the lobster traps are piled in the driveways of the waterfront houses ... He does a fine job of delineating Stonington, and not just the lobster boat races and lobster bakes, but the fog and the submerged rocks, wind and tides, and does just as good a job of describing the activity on a lobster boat at work. There’s the 4 a.m. cup of coffee, winching up the pots, the disappointment or delight when the pot hits the deck, the baiting of the trap: 'A whiff of week-old salted herring is better than a dose of smelling salts. It will wake you up and curl your hair.'
White traveled the Maine coast in pursuit of a quintessential lobster town to use as base for his next project, an in-depth look at the state’s most significant fishery...he took to the water with three different lobster captains to learn how they work and gain an inside look at this boom-or-bust industry. The figures are staggering ... White looks at everything from unionization and battles against the price-fixing of middlemen to the warming climate and rising real-estate prices. Lobsters are intrinsically linked to the soul of Maine, and White’s thoughtful chronicle gives both the highly desired marine crustaceans and the people who seek them their due.