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Madeline Stone goes back to her roots in rural Michigan and finds the missing bits of herself, in a heartwarming if drawn-out debut.
Matching pace to place, there's little urgency either in Airgood's novel or in McAllaster, the small town on the shore of Lake Superior for which 35-year-old Madeline impulsively, implausibly gives up life, work and a fiancé in Chicago. The reason given is to take care of sweet, elderly Arbutus and her cranky sister Gladys, who had been the "good friend" of Joe, Madeline's grandfather. When Madeline's druggie young mother abandoned her illegitimate baby, Joe could have taken the child in, but he refused, and Madeline was brought up by a kind stranger whose long, recently concluded battle with cancer has equipped her for taking care of the elderly. Finding friends, a little family and the attractive owner of the pizza parlor in McAllaster, Madeline also develops an ambition to take over Gladys' and Arbutus' decayed but lovely old hotel. Airgood uses scattered events (a court case, a fire, a traffic accident) to point out community values, the long play of rural history and therapeutic, neighborly good deeds. More sensitive, less sugary than similar books in the genre, this combination of romance and self-discovery ends, unsurprisingly, in a tidy, happy place.
Pleasant and comforting, like Gladys' cardamom rolls.
Posted April 14, 2011
Gladys Hanson sends a sympathy card to Madeline Stone following the death of Emmy the woman who raised the latter. Madeline's biological mother Jackie abandoned her when she was two years old and her late maternal grandfather Joe refused to raise her. Gloria also invites Madeline to move from Chicago to McAllister, Michigan to help her with her arthritic ailing sister Arbitus "Butte". Although Gladys was Joe's paramour, Madeline accepts leaving her job and boyfriend behind. Gladys proves unfriendly, but Butte makes her feel at home.
At the general store, Madeline meets pizza parlor owner Paul Garceau who also cooks at the nearby prison. The sisters argue over seeing the mothballed Hotel Leppinen they own as they have no money. Gladys sends Madeline to the hotel to get something. Madeline loves the hotel and thinks of possibilities. She goes to the pizza shop and asks for a waitressing job. Paul hires her. Gladys is upset but Butte is pleased with Madeline obtaining a job. Single mom Randi dumps Grey on Madeline at the pizza shop, but fails to return. Madeline takes Grey home with her. Later Madeline learns from Mary about her Great Uncle Walter who lives in a home for simple minded people; she visits him. As Madeline tries to renovate the hotel, she angers seemingly everyone except Butte; so considers leaving.
The key ensemble cast especially the heroine, her "great-aunts" and to a lesser degree her beloved is all developed while a sense of being in Michigan is a key element that anchors the plot. The reason Paul becomes angry with Madeline seems weak though critical. Still readers will enjoy South of Superior, as Madeline and the audience learn what family means.
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Posted August 16, 2011
If your mother had abandoned you in a soup kitchen at age three and your grandfather had refused to raise you, what kind of adult would you be?
How would you react when years after your grandfather's death, a stranger asks if you'd be interested in relocating to the isolated village where your he had made his home? Would a deep hidden anger and yearning for answers prompt you to leave behind a sophisticated fiance and the bustle of Chicago for a life as uncertain as the weather on the greatest of all lakes? Author Airgood has created a town peopled with strong, but flawed characters, each one adding to Madeline's unfolding understanding of her heritage and her future. Ellen Airgood's small town has outlived the grandeur of the mining and logging days, just as the real small towns that dot the UP's shoreline. You won't find the opulence of earlier times, but you'll find that "sisu" (Finnish for courage) still abounds.
This book will offer much for book clubs to discuss, and as someone for whom Lake Superior has an almost mystical pull, South of Superior has demanded that I make yet one more trip to its shores.
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Posted July 17, 2011
Remeniscent of the old TV show Northern Exposures, South of Superior is a tall drink of ice cold lemonade in an eccentric forgotten town where its inhabitants share a peculiar brand of small town love and devotion. Amazing read.
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Posted July 4, 2012
Yes, I read the book start to finish, it is my habit to never quit, always hoping that it will get better. Sadly this one did not. I bought it because of the locale of the story line. Author did do well drawing the reader to the location and giving a great sense of reality to the location. But just not the book for me.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 27, 2011
Posted August 23, 2013
I would give this book 31/2 stars. What I really liked about it was the glimpse into a different way of life in a different part of the country than what is usually presented. The characters live a very basic, even hand to mouth, existence. They are real, hard-working, accepting of each others sometimes wild eccentricities, and almost always have each others' backs. Into this community walks someone who is from them but not of them, who has decided to walk away from a comfortably well-off future and needs a place to hole up for awhile. She has a definite chip on her shoulder, and is definitely conflicted about being there. Now she has to decide what her future will look like.
My criticisms have to do with some of the situations that didn't seem believable or organic to the story, merely manipulations so that things could move forward in a certain way. But the tone of the book has stayed with me, and if you too are looking for something a little different, it's worth the read.
Posted July 26, 2013
Just finished reading this on my Nook from my library and am now ordering it to have in hardcover. I live in Michigan where this story takes place which made it even more interesting. I could easily picture where the story was taking place. That said, it was a great story, totally kept my interest and I had some late nights reading "just one more chapter" to see what happened next, how a particular issue was resolved and to see who ended up where and with who. I'll be reading it again for sure.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 18, 2012
Posted September 7, 2012
Posted August 27, 2012
Posted August 4, 2012
Fantastic summer read. The characters are perfect for their flaws and failures, and the cast of supporting quirky characters are loveable. I loved every second and was sad that the book had to end.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 24, 2012
i adore this book. Wonderful bonds between the characters. Great story about hardships and getting thru struggles. Waiting for the next book by this new author.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 30, 2012
I have not finished this book yet, but wish I could sit down and do nothing else but read. Having spent time "south of Superior" growing up, I have some insight into the area and its history. That said, you do not need any prior knowledge to enjoy and appreciate this book. Well-written with multi-layered/faceted characters, I love how the storyline is evolving. Worth spending time with!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 22, 2012
Decent story, okay characters....they weren't good enough to love or hate. It was honestly....just plain boring. I will neber buy another of this author's slow moving books. There's just no story there.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 30, 2012
Sit back, relax and enjoy a sweet story for a great summer read.
This past week, my husband and I went to Grand Marais, Minnesota, along Lake Superior for a relaxing vacation. I had seen this novel and decided that it was a perfect time to read, South of Superior by Ellen Airgood. The setting for this novel is much like the atmosphere and countryside of where we were staying. It is a beautiful place with the back drop of Lake Superior. I was very surprised at the slow the pace of life and how few tourists invaded their local. Such is the story of "South of Superior."
The novel is a little slow and off beat but very true to the area that it is written about. The locals are friendly, caring and reliable. Richness in friendships is the wealth they rely upon and one to be most treasured.
Sit back, relax and enjoy a sweet story for a great summer read.
Posted April 10, 2012
Engaging. Set in Michigan, comes a story of Madeline, alone in the world and making her way back to this simple, very "old school" town, to care for an ailing friend. Yawn! Didn't think this would hold my attention,however the characters grow on you and reel you in. This is such a simple but warm and fullsome book. I didn't want the story to end. And for sure, I want more from this author!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 15, 2012
This was a nice book to sit back and relax with. It makes you appreciate the little things. I look forward to her writing another book.
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Posted January 16, 2012
Ellen is the kid sister of my best friend from high school, and so I bought this book to be "supportive." I began reading and found that I could not put it down. It was a wonderful surprise that the characters were solid and the story was compelling. I got involved with the story and the characters and really ended up caring what happened. Ellen's style is light and respectful, and I can see how the experience she has as the owner of a diner has made it's mark on her writing. She didn't press her characters to do things but allowed them to make their own decisions. She didn't judge. Her characters and story developed and blossomed in their own time, and the story was not too short or too long. I would highly recommend reading!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 22, 2011
Posted October 17, 2011
I really enjoyed getting to know all these characters and I am sorry the book is over. I am from the UP, so I had to read this. And I find it to be so true to the lives and interests and sheer difficulty of making a life in in the UP. Very well done.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.