Miriam Colwell grew up in Prospect Harbor, a quiet fishing village in Maine, with her grandparents Louis and Susan Cole. Louis owned the local general store, and served as the village postmaster, and Susan served meals to summer patrons. Despite their busy lives, the couple provided Miriam with a wonderful childhood, filled with a deep appreciation for the outdoors and literature.
In high school, Miriam's creativity blossomed. She began writing poetry, and post graduation, she met the woman who would encourage her to pursue her work—artist Chenowith Hall. Chenowith lived in New York City, and Miriam visited whenever she could, eventually moving to New York in the late 30's. Miriam loved her cosmopolitan life and creative circle of friends, but when her grandfather retired as postmaster, he asked if she could take his place. Miriam agreed, and at age 23, she became the country's youngest postmistress.
The post office turned out to be an ideal spot to take in the village comings and goings, and Colwell found inspiration from the place she lived and worked. During her years as postmistress, Miriam would write and publish Wind off the Water, Day of the Trumpet, and Young.
Contentment Cove, her fourth and last novel, is set in a Maine fishing village in the 1950s. The novel explores the perspectives of three women —a local shopkeeper, an artist, and a wealthy retiree—and what happens when their lives intertwine, first pleasantly, and then tragically.
In the following excerpt, Dot-Fran, who runs the town drugstore, is asked to visit Hilary, a well-known artist who recently separated from her husband, Spencer. Dot-Fran's handsome married brother, Stan, offers to drive his sister to the lonely point where Hilary lives and works. What transpires next keeps readers wanting more.
It was cold, only two above zero, but one of those lovely, clear, absolutely still winter nights, with the stars shining like cake decorations. The Cove looked like a Christmas picture, lighted windows reflecting on the snow, and the fields so white against the dark winter. Everything creaked around the rocks, the car, the trees, the road, though there wasn't a breath of wind stirring.
Out on the point, we sat around Hilly's fireplace and ate roasted chestnuts and drank bourbon. She played recordings from "My Fair Lady" that Spencer had just sent her, and Stan loosened up after a couple of drinks and sang along with them. She was very quiet, just sat and watched him and ate chestnuts. It was unusual for her to be so quiet.
Later on the moon came up. It seemed to rise straight out of the ocean beyond Calf Island with the dead black water beginning to dance and shimmer like gold lamé.
Hilly said, " Come, children, let's go watch from the upstairs studio."
The whole end of her studio was glass, with a narrow second story porch hanging out over the rocks. We didn't need any lights. The walls were white and the whole room was as light as day, with stars shining through the big skylight. Her painting things were arranged very neatly on shelves and in racks along the walls, big stacks of paper and dozens of brushes sticking out of pitchers. The only clutter was on the big table under the skylight. A big piece of burlap was thrown over her easel.
The phonograph still played downstairs. It seemed dreamlike, Stan and I standing there with Hilly watching the moon rise over Calf Island. All the bourbon was making my head spin, but I was so happy, so keyed up and excited, that I unlatched the glass door and stepped out on the porch before I really knew what I was doing.
The air was freezing cold, but it didn't seem to matter. Stan and Hilly were only a foot away inside the glass. They stood very still, with moonlight on their faces, as though they were cast in a spell, not able to move, even to smile.