Small-Town Folks – “South of Superior” by Ellen Airgood
You know how Elizabeth Gilbert’s smash hit “Eat, Pray, Love” is supposedly the story of a woman who “lost everything?” I’ve always had an issue with that. Most people who’ve truly “lost everything” wouldn’t be able to afford a year abroad and multiple international flights.
“South of Superior,” though a novel and not a memoir, is more like what the story of a woman losing everything and gaining even more wonderful things back is probably like in reality.
Our protagonist, Madeline Stone, leaves her Chicago lifestyle to come back to Northern Michigan to care for an elderly relative. She moves in with two eighty-year-old-plus sisters, Gladys and Arbutus, and finds herself becoming part of a number of small-town dramas as she gets wound into the lives of the mostly low-income residents of the town. As far as her housemates go, Gladys is a cranky pistol while Arbutus is angelic in her sweetness. Along the way, there’s a car accident, a train wreck of a young woman raising a son, and Madeline falls in love both with a run-down hotel she wants to open and an attractive pizzeria owner. It’s not too far from the best of Danielle Steele’s work, actually.
Being from Northern Michigan originally, and now living in Chicago, this book appealed to me immensely right from the start. Anyone who’s survived a Michigan winter or gazed at the sheer monstrosity that is Lake Superior will find themselves flooded with memories of the area. These are everyday people working hard to get by, and anyone who’s from any working class areas of the country will identify.
I read a lot of books wondering if my Mom would like them. She’d like this one – so I’ll be handing to her in a few weeks when I go on vacation.
“South of Superior” might be a sleeper of a novel, and may even go largely unnoticed by most of the book reading public. That said, it’s a charming book and one that’s easy to fall into.