New book tells Brattleboro's story

Monday December 10, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- When Dave Eisenstadter's publisher asked him to write a book on how Brattleboro survived Tropical Storm Irene, Eisenstadter knew there was a bigger story he could tell.

Eisenstadter grew up in the Monadnock Region, and even before Tropical Storm Irene hit he says he was a big fan of Brattleboro.

Now living in Cambridge, Mass., Eisenstadter watched the town deal with the Brooks House fire, two high profile murders, and then the flooding caused by Irene and he convinced his publisher that there was more to write about concerning how Brattleboro dealt with one very difficult year.

He convinced his publisher that they should pull the camera back and take a wider look at how Brattleboro survived the events of 2011.

He did his research over the past year and on Nov. 15 the book, "Embattled Brattleboro," was released by Surry Cottage Books.

Now he is touring the region to promote the book and talk to the residents of Brattleboro who lived through one very tough year.

"I knew the town had gone through the Brooks House fire, and the murders," he said during a recent telephone interview. "I wanted to find out how the town dealt with that and what the recovery has been like. I though that would be much more compelling."

Eisenstadter went to high school in Keene, N.H. and worked at the Keene Sentinel for about a year.

He was working at the Sentinel when the Brooks House fire happened on April 18.

He says he has always been a fan of the town's artistic and independent spirit, of its small shops and restaurants, and of the people who call it home.

In his first book Eisenstadter wrote about the ice storm of 2008 which cut a wide and destructive swath through New England and affected millions of people in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.

That experience, he said, taught him to look into the human stories behind the catastrophic event and for "Embattled Brattleboro" Eisenstadter talked to town officials, emergency responders and the people who were affected by the events.

"There has always been a community spirit, and that really came out after the events of 2011," he says. "The events became linked because people never had a chance to fully recover from one before the next one hit."

The book is full of photos of the storm, the fire, and of the people impacted by the Melissa Barratt murder in Dummerston in on July 28, and then the murder of Michael Martin at the Brattleboro Food Co-op on Aug. 9.

After Tropical Storm Irene flooded downtown on Aug. 28, and in the days after, Eisenstadter says he found one story after another of people pulling together to get through the tragedies together.

"One theme that emerged, was how great a job the town was doing at getting through all of this," Eisenstadter said. "People were leaning on each other, and all the events came together to tell one big story."

He says Brattleboro's small town feel created deep connections between the people who were affected by the flood.

People knew residents and merchants in the Brooks House.

They shopped at the co-op and knew Gagnon and Martin, and anyone who ever walked around downtown had to be affected by the scenes of the Whetstone Brook flooding Flat Street.

"I found that people had to look inside themselves and figure out how they would face this," he said. "It really brought home how much of the Vermont spirit was present. Vermonters are know for their independence, but when their neighbor is in trouble they reach out a hand and help."

The book is available at Everyone's Books, at and through

Eisenstadter will be at the Latchis Theater on Sunday, Dec. 16, at 4:30 p.m., to talk about the book.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or


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