Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Quintessentially Cape Ann Cookbook

Gloucesterite Melissa Smith Abbott's sensational cookbook, "The Legacy of Three Melissas" Has been breaking records for book sales since its debut last year. Since I designed this book I have a special affection for it. The following is an excerpt from a recent newspaper article:

In compiling a pictorial collection of quaint New England recipes and mementos that began as a heartfelt homage to her grandmother and great grandmother, Melissa Smith Abbott has
created a book that’s created one singular little sensation in her hometown of Gloucester, Massachusetts.

In the ten months since its self-published debut, her soft cover, lovingly illustrated ‘Three Melissas’ has outsold Elyssa East’s New York Times best-seller, ‘Dogtown,’ in the local Gloucester book shop. East’s best-seller, a cinematic novel set in Gloucester, has the benefit of a national marketing machine pushing sales.

Smith-Abbott’s book, a highly personal Proustian pictorial montage of remembrance of things past in a succession of family-owned, sea swept Cape Ann inns, has relied entirely on the one-woman wits and marketing ingenuity of its new media-savvy author.

Nevertheless, it continues —thanks in part to tourists who snap it up— to rack up a surprisingly impressive volume of national sales.
In that, it is similar to the early sales of another locally selfpublished book, set in neighboring Salem, Brunonia Barry’s novel, The Lace Reader. Like ‘Three Melissas,’ its initial launch was largely local and organic, but like East’s ‘Dogtown’ it is a highly
cinematic novel, so its mass-appeal is obvious.

Smith-Abbott finds it hard to explain where her book finds curious commonality in this local trilogy, except to say that she is not surprised that it continues to capture the imagination of so many, because its subject matter has, for so many years, captured hers.
“This was a book I’d been living with for so long,” says the author, who begins it with a story she’d heard all her life, of how the first of her ‘Three Melissas,’ her great-grandmother, Melissa McKeekin Collins, landed on New England’s rugged Cape Ann shores from New Jersey in 1929, intent on converting an old blacksmith shop into a restaurant. This in itself --a woman with the gumption to be so enterprising on the cusp of America’s great depression, could itself be material for a novel. 

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