Time Between Trains
by Anthony Bukoski
Holy Cow! Press
Superior native Tony Bukoski’s finely hewn stories are harvested from his childhood memories growing up in the Polish section of his working-class lakeside city.
He mingles nostalgic recountings of the eras gone with timeless observations of how people get by, get along and, occasionally, get what they have coming to them – both the good and the tragic. His words make these fictional lives palpable and while this is a form of voyeurism, Tony make us truly care about his fictional characters in a way we never care about the “real” people on current reality TV.
All his characters, like all people, have flaws but are rarely condemned by the reader or by the other characters because of them. This is not simply the “we are all in this together” attitude. It is a true understanding that we are all related, by family, working conditions, heritage or our very neighborhood.
It’s hard not to be nostalgic for that kind of relationship, often missing today. It’s a treasure to have a chronicler of that time in a fiction that speaks of reality. – Konnie LeMay
South of Superior
by Ellen Airgood
The story woven by Ellen Airgood in her debut novel is as heartwarming and encouraging as Ellen’s own story. Ellen moved to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in her 20s, met her husband, a cook at a diner, and married six months later. She and he now own the West Bay Diner in Grand Marais, where, she says on her webpage, “Most of what I know about maturity and compassion, not to mention story, I’ve learned from waiting tables.”
Ellen, like the character in her book, Madeline Stone, is a newcomer to the shores of Lake Superior and to its towns filled with people who do what needs to be done to get by – in real life and in fiction.
In the book, Madeline enters the lives of two elder sisters in the fictional town of McAllastar on the southern shores of the Big Lake. Ellen creates characters that she cares about and who care about each other – and so we care about them, too. Her descriptions of life in rural U.P. towns ring true – like plans to get to Sault Ste. Marie in time when a baby is due – and Madeline’s journey of discovery about her own strengths and weaknesses, illuminated in this small-town life, is someone worth getting to know. I look forward to Ellen’s future books … I hope to stop by the diner one day.– Konnie LeMay
The Long-Shining Sea
by Danielle Sosin
Lake Superior is the glue that brings together three women from three different times and their stories of despair, searching, and life. The first story in this book is set in 1622, the year that Étienne Brule becomes the first European to enter Lake Superior.
The Ojibwe woman in this story has dreams that haunt her life and cause her fears she cannot comprehend. Is the white-skinned stranger in her vision a source of both change and of evil? Is she seeing the change that will alter the lives of her children and tribe? She travels the Lake through the seasons to find an interpretation and discovers something stronger than her dreams.
The next storyline is 1902, when a husband and wife have rediscovered their love for one another on the shore of the Lake. He a fisherman, she an artist. They mesh their lives until the Lake becomes the third leg of the triangle and the woman, Berit, must sort out the impact of the cold waters that embrace her husband, Gunnar.
Finally the alternating stories move to 2000 and the story of Nora, a bar owner in Superior who has lost a man to the Lake, has had her daughter move away and put distance between them, as well as her granddaughter.
When her bar burns, Nora has no job and, what’s more, no anchor place. She drifts like the waves and finds herself traveling around Lake Superior almost by accident. Again the Lake is a character and the journey gives her the analogy of a circle that never ends – like the events that tie together lives.
I found this well-written with wonderful images and a sense of the poetic. – Mike Link
Eye of the Wolf
by Marie Zhuikov
North Star Press
One thing I can guarantee – as Isle Royale National Park Superintendent Phyllis Green considers her options for how to handle the possible extinction of wolves on the island park, the solution in this book will not be one of her options!
Marie Zhuikov spent her college summers as a waitress on Isle Royale and has long been connected with the Sea Grant program in Minnesota and now Wisconsin, so she knows her stuff on the environment and the environs. Her supernatural wolf’s-eye view of the island’s wolf declines coincides with the headlines this year. Marie’s take is that the island’s alpha wolves take matters into their own paws, recruiting humans as werewolf go-betweens to get to the mainland to search for viable wolf mates to save their packs.
This specialized supernatural genre does not work for every reader, but the book delivers a lot of science-based detail and island description. If you like the genre and love the Lake, this would be a relaxing read to prick your imagination.– Konnie LeMay
The books reviewed here, unless otherwise indicated, should be available through local booksellers by using the ISBN number.