PERSONAL: Born in New York, NY; married; husband's name, Bill. Education: Degree in English and theater.
ADDRESSES: Home—Gouldsboro, ME. Agent—c/o Author Mail, St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.
CAREER: Farmer and writer. Darthia Farm, Gouldsboro, ME, owner and operator. Former teacher, basketmaker, and weaver. Maine St. Andrew's Pipes and Drums, bagpiper.
(With Nathan D. Hamilton) The Moosehead Lake Region, Arcadia (Dover, NH), 1995.
Strong for Potatoes (novel), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.
A Certain Slant of Light (fiction), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2000.
ADAPTATIONS: An abridged audio version of Strong for Potatoes was released by Audio Literature.
SIDELIGHTS: Considering herself a "late bloomer," Cynthia Thayer began writing at the age of forty-eight partly because arthritis was restricting her weaving abilities. As a writer noted on the Folkcal Archives Web site, while Thayer maintains she "cannot write well about herself … she does write about what she knows, from the blueberry fields of Washington County to the tunes played on a Celtic chanter, and it is this familiarity that makes her characters and her stories ring true."
Thayer's first novel, Strong for Potatoes, is the story of Blue Willoughby, who lost an eye and suffered a leg injury after being struck by a golf cart while shooting a film as a child. As time passes, Blue receives little support from her dysfunctional parents. She becomes pregnant by her prom date and turns to her full-blooded Passamaquoddy Indian grandfather and his neighbors on the tribe's Maine reservation for support. Blue's grandfather teaches her the healing value of nature and Native American ways and she learns to weave beautiful baskets that are "strong for potatoes." With her grandfather's support, Blue is able to face motherhood and her awakening lesbian sexuality.
A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called the novel a "well-crafted, if somewhat maudlin, debut." Janet A. Ingraham Dwyer, reviewing the book in Library Journal, referred to two "unforgettable" passages about death that "center" the novel. Dwyer called one "shocking and audacious" and the other "unusually tranquil." "Thayer's first novel is written with skill and patience, like one of Blue's handcrafted ash baskets," declared Jennifer Henderson in Booklist.
Thayer's critically acclaimed second novel, A Certain Slant of Light, is also set in the unglamorous and tough landscape of rural Maine. The narrator, Peter, was a bagpiper until his wife and two children died in a house fire. Ridden with guilt, Peter moves to the coast of Maine, his only companions being an old Passamaquoddy woman and a dog—until the arrival during a severe winter storm of a pregnant woman on the run from an abusive husband. Peter cannot turn her away. In World and I, Joan Silber commented that at the very beginning of the story, Thayer sets the tone with her description of place: "A bare, spare, and orderly atmosphere has been evoked…. Place is not only geography but a system of values, and sober self-reliance is at home here." A Publishers Weekly critic commented that "Thayer's tale is deeply poetic and quasi-Freudian…. Her characters are plainspoken and lucid as well as complex."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 1, 1998, Jennifer Harrison, review of Strong for Potatoes, p. 779; August, 2000, Kristin Kloberdanz, review of A Certain Slant of Light, p. 2117.
Dover Community News, November 9, 2001, review of A Certain Slant of Light.
Library Journal, January, 1998, Janet A. Ingraham Dwyer, review of Strong for Potatoes, p. 146; July, 2000, Reba Leiding, review of A Certain Slant of Light, p. 2117.
Publishers Weekly, November 17, 1997, review of Strong for Potatoes, p. 54; June 26, 2000, review of A Certain Slant of Light, p. 2117.
San Francisco Chronicle, April 10, 1998, Karen Sorlie Russo, review of Strong for Potatoes, p. D13.
World and I, December, 2000, Joan Silber, review of A Certain Slant of Light, p. 242.
Folkcal Archives Web site, http://lists.svaha.com/pipermail/folkcal/ (February 10, 2003), Sound Portrait of the Artist: "Cynthia Thayer."
Maine Writers, http://www.waterboro.lib.me.us/maineaut/ (June 15, 1999), "Cynthia Thayer."