In the 10 years my husband Francis and I have been together, I’ve made several trips with him to the family homestead in Millers Falls, part of Montague, Massachusetts. Somehow, in the flurry of activities—lunches at Friendly’s, visits with the dear and now departed Uncle Al J. Zera (yep, that was his name) and trips to the Yankee Candle factory—we kept missing one of the best places in town, The Montague Bookmill. We finally went last week, and now that I’ve crossed that bridge (they actually have a little bridge from the road to the front door), it will be a standing itinerary item on all future in-law pilgrimages.
Less than four miles from the home of the elder Zeras, The Bookmill is a used bookstore housed in an 1842 gristmill, so already there’s plenty of charm to be found in the sloping ceilings and creaky wood floors.
What really makes this bookstore stand out as a place to sit, sip coffee, read, dream and create is its idyllic setting on the banks of the Sawmill River. We visited on a sunny day, and next to every open window with a river view was a chair of some sort, most of them comfy. A good book and the sound of the water rushing by, well, it just takes you away.
There’s no shortage of literary treasures to be found in the stacks of The Bookmill’s quirky rooms, especially academic non-fiction and classic fiction. It’s Massachusetts, after all, and you can’t drive far without running into an esteemed institution of higher learning or the grave of a former literary great. In fact, I initially chose Thoreau’s Walden as my book purchase—it just seemed fitting—until Francis said, “Got it. Maybe even two copies.” Of course he does! I’m guessing you can’t get through college in this state without having it assigned as required reading. In the end, we bought Philip Connor’s Fire Season, called ‘The Walden of Wildfires’ by the New York Times Sunday Book Review. It kind of balanced out the book choice of our 16-year-old niece, which was the memoir of a methamphetamine addict.
The sign over the front door of The Bookmill reads “Books You Don’t Need in a Place You Can’t Find.” Well, I’m extraordinarily glad I happened to marry a guy from Montague and had insider knowledge. Next time I visit, I’m going to plan it as a 1/2-day trip, and if you’re in the Amherst/Northampton area, I recommend that you do, too.