To the New Owners
A Martha's Vineyard Memoirby Madeleine Blais
From the celebrated, bestselling journalist, and memoirist Madeleine Blais, the story of a family home on Martha’s Vineyard.
In the 1970s, Madeleine Blais’s in-laws purchased a vacation house on Martha’s Vineyard for the exorbitant sum of $80,000. A little more than two miles down a poorly marked one-lane dirt road, the house was better termed a shack–it had no electricity or modern plumbing, the roof leaked, and mice had invaded the walls. It was perfect.
Sitting on Tisbury Great Pond–well-stocked with oysters and crab for foraged dinners–the house faced the ocean and the sky, and though it was eventually replaced by a sturdier structure, the ethos remained the same: no heat, no TV, and no telephone. Instead, there were countless hours at the beach, meals cooked and savored with friends, nights talking under the stars, until, in 2014, the house was sold.
To the New Owners is Madeleine Blais’s charming, evocative memoir of this house, and of the Vineyard itself–from the history of the island and its famous visitors to the ferry, the pie shops, the quirky charms and customs, and the abundant natural beauty. But more than that, this is an elegy for a special place. Many of us have one place that anchors our most powerful memories. For Blais, it was the Vineyard house–a retreat and a dependable pleasure that also measured changes in her family. As children were born and grew up, as loved ones aged and passed away, the house was a constant. And now, the house lives on in the hearts of those who cherished it.
Praise for To the New Owners:
“Blais writes with eye, mind, and heart in equal measure. I laughed aloud, teared up at least once a chapter, and sighed with recognition throughout. Coming to the end was as bittersweet as Labor Day.” —George Howe Colt, author of The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home
“Madeleine Blais knows the secret of a superb memoir: a wry sense of humor and an honest sense of gratitude leaven the inevitable pain of To the New Owners. Anyone who has lived in a house and had to leave it will laugh and be moved by this brilliantly written book.” —Anita Shreve, author of The Stars are Fire
“What a pleasure—to be ferried to this storied island by an outsider-turned-insider, reporting so wittily and affectionately from the front lines of marriage, in-law-hood, real estate, celebrity neighbors and literary houseguests. How did To the New Owners manage to make me nostalgic for a place I hardly know? All credit to the heart, mind, and prize-winning pen of Madeleine Blais.” —Elinor Lipman, author of On Turpentine Lane and The Inn at Lake Devine
“Anything Madeleine Blais writes, I want to read, and know that I will read it with a smile. In To the New Owners she again reminds me why. This is a funny, warm and illuminating book that, like all of her work, finds the universal in the particular. It is about the meaning of place in all of our lives.” —David Maraniss, author of Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story
What was most vexing to me about selling the house was that the new owners had no idea what they were getting. They saw 5.5 acres, with only a small portion a buildable footprint. They saw the lot and the subdivision numbers by which we were known by the town of West Tisbury, important if it ever had to send a fire engine our way. They saw a roof that needed replacing and the chance to burden us with half the cost ($17,000). They saw a house they might upgrade, a house they might tear down.
What the new owners could not see, and therefore could not appreciate, was the human history, all the lives that grazed ours and the ones that truly intersected, the noisy arrivals and departures, the arguments and the recipes, the ghosts and the guests, crabs caught and birthdays celebrated, clams shucked, towels shaken, lures assembled, bonfires lit, the dogs we indulged, the ticks we cursed, the pies we consumed, and, through it all, both close by and in the distance, the moving waters (as a poet put it) at their priestlike task. They could not see the depth of the life lived here during the summer for all those years.