In Downeast, Gigi Georges follows five girls as they come of age in one of the most challenging and geographically isolated regions on the Eastern seaboard. Their stories reveal surprising truths about rural America and offer hope for its future. “It’s almost impossible not to care about these fierce young women and cheer for their hard-won successes” (Kirkus) in this “heartfelt portrait” and “worthy tribute” (Publishers Weekly).
Nestled in Maine’s far northeast corner, Washington County sits an hour’s drive from the heart of famed and bustling Acadia National Park. Yet it’s a world away. For Willow, Vivian, Mckenna, Audrey, and Josie—five teenage girls caught between tradition and transformation in this remote region—it is home. Downeast follows their journeys of heartbreak and hope in uncertain times, creating a nuanced and unique portrait of rural America with women at its center.
Willow lives in the shadow of an abusive, drug-addicted father and searches for stability through photography and love. Vivian, a gifted writer, feels stifled by her church and town, and struggles to break free without severing family ties. Mckenna is a softball pitching phenom whose passion is the lobster-fishing she learned at her father’s knee. Audrey is a beloved high school basketball star who earns a coveted college scholarship but questions her chosen path. Josie, a Yale-bound valedictorian, is determined to take the world by storm.
All five girls know the pain and joy of life in a region whose rugged beauty and stoicism mask dwindling populations, vanishing job opportunities, and pervasive opioid addiction. As the girls reach adulthood, they discover that despite significant challenges, there is much to celebrate in “the valley of the overlooked.” Their stories remind us of the value of timeless ideals: strength of family and community, reverence for nature’s rule, dignity in cracked hands and muddied shoes, and the enduring power of home.
Revealed through the eyes of Willow, Vivian, Mckenna, Audrey, and Josie, Downeast is based on four years of intimate reporting. The result is a beautifully rendered, emotionally startling, and vital book. Downeast will break readers’ hearts yet offer them hope, providing answers to what the future may hold for rural America.
Gigi Georges, Ph.D., turned to narrative non-fiction writing after an extensive career in politics, public service, and academia. A former White House Special Assistant to the President, she has taught political science at Boston College, served as Program Director for the Harvard Kennedy School’s Innovation Strategies Initiative, and been a Managing Director of The Glover Park Group—a leading national public affairs firm. Born and raised in Brooklyn, she lives with her family in New Hampshire and Downeast Maine.