Readers' Favorite

November 8, 2019

3 Books About Michigan

by Susan Roberts

Even though I've lived in North Carolina for over 40 years and love living here, a part of my heart still belongs in Michigan where I grew up.  Every summer my family would take a trip to somewhere different in the state so that we could learn all about it and my favorite places are the small cities along Lake Michigan.  Because of my love of the state, I really enjoy reading books about Michigan.  I recently read three books in a row about this lovely state and here are my reviews.

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Evening in the Yellow Wood by Laura Kemp

March 2019; Pandamoon Publishing; 978-1950627066
ebook, print (262 pages); suspense
"Webber wasn't a town that liked to surprise people.  Situated about 30 miles South of Kalamazoo in the flatlands of southern Michigan, it was homespun, mellow and meandering.  People who lived there knew what to expect and whom to expect it from." (p 5)

I love reading books about Michigan with characters who reflect the area that they live in. This debut novel by Laura Kemp takes place in the fictional town of Lantern Creek in northern Michigan. I will admit that I don't usually like books with paranormal plots but this one was so well done that it didn't detract from the story for me.

Justine Cook has always wondered why her beloved dad disappeared when she was 12. At 22, she still doesn't know and when she sees a newspaper picture from Lantern Creek that shows him in the background, she knows that she needs to find him and discover why he left. She moves to the small town and finds that all of her inquiries create even more questions. When she meets a half-brother who is autistic and non-verbal but who can talk to her in her mind, she tries even harder to find out where her dad is so that she can confront him. As she finds out that nothing in Lantern Creek is what it appears to be, she also begins to wonder if her life is in danger. Can the sheriff that she is involved with help her save herself and find her father and will she get her happily ever after with him?

I enjoyed the people in Lantern Creek and especially enjoyed Justine and Dylan and their growing relationship. The novel will keep you turning pages to find out if she is successful in her search for her father. The book has suspense, mystery, and romance along with a supernatural element to it -- a perfect combination for a great read. The supernatural element is well done and made the story even more interesting. I look forward to Laura Kemp's future books.

Buy Evening in the Yellow Wood at Amazon

The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne

April 2019; G.P. Putnam's Sons; 978-0735213012
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); psychological thriller
"If I told you my mother's name, you'd recognize it right away.  My mother was famous, though she never wanted to be.  Hers wasn't the kind of fame anyone would wish for.  Jaycee Dugard, Amanda Berry, Elizabeth Smart - that kind of thing, though my mother was none of them.

You'd recognize my mother's name if I told it to you and then you'd wonder - briefly, because the years when people cared about my mother are long gone, as she is - where is she now?  And didn't she have a daughter while she was missing? An whatever happened to that little girl? 

 I was born two years into my Mother’s captivity. She was three weeks shy of seventeen. If I had known then, what I do now, things would have been a lot different. I wouldn’t have adored my Father.” (p1)

This fantastic novel takes place in a remote cabin the marshlands of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  If it seems strange to the reader that anywhere can be as remote as this cabin was, let me assure you that there are still areas like this in Michigan's UP where a person could hide for years.  This book grabbed me on the first page and kept me enthralled until the end.  It was interesting to see how the attitudes of the main character towards her parents changed throughout the book as she grew up and became a mother too.

The story is told by Helena as an adult with a lot of flashbacks to her younger years.  She didn't realize it until she was 14 but her mother had been kidnapped by her father at age 14 and held captive in a remote area of northern Michigan.  Helena worshiped her father when she was growing up - she hunted and fished with him and spent most of her waking hours with him.  She had him on a high pedestal.  She also mirrored her father's negative opinion of her mother and didn't have much regard for her mother when she was growing up.  The hero-worship of her father in her younger years could have been difficult to understand but Helena didn't know any better, she didn't realize that their lives were any different from other people because she never saw anyone but her parents as she was growing up.   Twenty years after she and her mother escaped and her father went to prison, she has buried her past and kept it a secret even from her husband.  When her father escapes from prison, she knows that she is the only person who can find him before he inflicts harm on other people.

The way that the story is told with Helena's search for her father as an adult and flashbacks to her childhood in the marsh, helps to make this novel very suspenseful.  Helena is a well written main character who changes throughout the novel.  The setting is beautiful even though the circumstances are horrific.  This is a beautifully written, suspenseful novel with a main character that I won't soon forget.

Buy The Marsh King's Daughter at Amazon

The Women of the Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell

August 2019; Atria Books; 978-1982109585
audio, ebook, print (352 pages); historical fiction
"A good day in the mine  is a day when nobody gets killed or crippled.  Or if somebody does, at least it's not you.  At the end of a shift, if you're lucky - still alive, still on your feet - you trudge back through tunnels that seem a lot longer than they did thirteen hours ago and you climb back up those cut-stone stairs on rubbery legs.  Everything hurts.  ...Without knowing, you've been scared all day and you're tired, tired, tired.  Filthy, but almost too tired to clean up.  Hungry, but almost too tired to eat."  (p 116)

This novel takes place in Calumet Michigan in 1913. At this time, Calumet had the largest and most profitable copper mines in the US. Workers risked their lives every day underground with frequent deaths and injuries. The workers rent their homes from the company and shop in the company store and even have to buy their own gloves and shovels to work with. As the working population of the mines live a meager existence, the stockholders and mine managers are living the high life - trips to Europe, large homes and sumptuous food. They feel like they are doing the workers - many of them immigrants - a favor by providing them a place to work. It's no wonder that the promise of the unions has gained popularity with the workers.

The true-life main character is Annie Clements. She has seen how her family and friends struggle and knows that unionizing is the only way to provide a future. She is very charismatic and has the support of the wives and daughters of the workers when she encourages a strike. Some of the men strike while others continue to work. As the strike continues, Annie is effecting the miners’ fortunes and health and her own reputation as she faces the threat of prison for leading the strike, On her fierce quest for justice, Annie will discover just how much she is willing to sacrifice for her own independence and the families of Calumet.

This is an emotional novel about the workers who struggled with mistreatment by the rich owners and the people's involvement in the early labor movement in US workplaces. The strikes caused violence and upset in the strikers' lives as they had to decide whether to continue their strike or give in to the owner's demands.

Annie Clements was a real person who led the strike at the copper mines in the years before WWI. She was a real inspiration who only wanted the betterment of the working conditions to help families. "What the union wants is simple. Eight hours for work. Eight hours for sleep. Eight hours for families to be together."

Buy The Women of the Copper Country at Amazon

Want to read more books set in Michigan? Check out these recent books.

The Hope Chest by Viola Shipman - review here.

All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner - review here.

Hard Cider by Barbara Stark-Nemon - review here.

We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels - review here.

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.

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  1. love this post. i am a fellow michigander. i moved from the state in 1987 and have lived in several states since then, finally ending up in florida. i love michigan and the books you shared made me think....maybe it's time for another visit. i still have family there
    sherry @ fundinmental

    1. I try to get back every year. My two sisters and I have a sisters weekend in Ludington where we spent all of our summers growing up. Hope you get a chance to visit!