June 28, 2004 12:00 PM

By Anthony Weller

Yankee stubbornness informs a hilarious David vs. Goliath struggle in Weller’s third novel. Salt Cove is a speck of a town in Massachusetts, north of Boston. When the state condemns the town’s historic (i.e., rotting) wooden bridge and announces that a concrete span will replace it, the villagers turn into hopping-mad revolutionaries. The government tries to demolish the bridge in the middle of the night, prompting residents to dump state workers into the cove. Fittingly, after this 21st-century Boston Tea Party, the village secedes from the United States.

It’s a gloriously strange book, both whimsical and brooding. The chapters are narrated by different townsfolk, providing a detailed sense of the community. Perhaps the portrayal of the corrupt and wasteful government is an easy exaggeration, but this is comedy, after all, and hyperbole is the cornerstone of humor.

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