Thursday, August 23, 2012

South of Superior - Ellen Airgood

Title: South of Superior
Author: Ellen Airgood
Paperback: 370 pages (ARC)
Publisher: Riverhead Books/Penguin
Published date: June 2011
FTC: Received review copy from publisher

I'm not sure why I sat on this book for a whole year.  For some reason I never got around to it last summer and it just seemed liked it needed to be read in the summer.  Just look at that cover.  Covers can be deceiving though because while this is a great summer book, it could also be the perfect book to snuggle up to a fire with some warm cocoa.    And, for some reason, I kept thinking that the book should take place in the South -- even though it almost blatantly states the actual location, Lake Superior, Michigan.

Back of the book:

When Madeline Stone walks away from her Chicago life and moves five hundred miles north to the coast of Lake Superior, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, she isn't prepared for how much her life will change.  Charged with caring for an aging family friend, Madeline finds herself in the middle of beautiful nowhere with Gladys and Arbutus, two octogenarian sisters -- one sharp and stubborn, the other sweeter than sunshine. As she is drawn into the dramas of the small, tight-knit town, Madeline learns that it's a place where times are tough and debts run deep, but where friendship, community, and compassion run deeper.

A debut novel full of heart, South of Superior shows that there is a deep reward in caring for others, that one who is poor in pocket can be rich in many other ways, and that happiness often comes from the smallest gestures.

My thoughts:

What a beautiful and moving novel.  This is one of those books that's all about the characters and how they change and evolve throughout the story.  Madeline was a pretty great central character because while she had her flaws and made her mistakes, I kept seeing how she was struggling to do good and be happy and so I kept just rooting for her.  There are all sorts of side characters that just fill out the story and make it beautiful.  Gladys, who is so rough around the edges that she's completely believable; Arbutus, who just makes you smile as you read about her; Mary Feather, the eccentric elderly lady who lives on the outskirts of town and knows how to eek out a living out of nothing; Greyson, the adorable little boy who has a single mom he almost has to look after; and so many other characters.

I think Ellen Airgood captured the rawness and roughness of a small town -- how people struggle to make ends meet, how everyone knows everyone's business, and how when times get tough, people still watch out for each other.  This is the type of book that makes you slow down and just enjoy the pace of the book.  I fell in love with the entire town and wow, for a girl who's never had the urge to visit the Great Lakes area...I really now want to go.  I want to see this beautiful ocean of a lake that Ellen Airgood describes -- check out her website for a few awesome photos.  She's also got some other fun extras on her website like old photos which were her inspiration for Madeline's family, pictures of her inspiration for Gladys' and Arbutus' homes, and even Mary Feather's truck. I love when authors do stuff like that.

Also Reviewed By:

Kelly's [Former] France Blog

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