Dennis (It's Raining Frogs and Fishes) takes a comprehensive look at the Great Lakes, delving into the cultural and natural history of this vast inland body of fresh water. In part a journal of his six-week voyage through the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean on a 100' schooner, it is also the story of the geological forces that scoured the lake basins, the early Jesuit and French explorers, and Dennis's own history of growing up on Lake Michigan. The author moves seamlessly between the events of the journey-e.g., struggling to keep from capsizing during a sudden squall on Lake Erie-to events of the past, such as his participation in the annual Chicago-to-Mackinac sailboat race. We follow the fishing industry through its ups and downs, hear disastrous tales of shipwrecks, and are alerted to environmental hazards resulting from years of unrestricted dumping of wastes. Those who enjoyed William Least Heat-Moon's River-Horse will want to read this book. Essential for regional collections and a fine addition to any public library.-Maureen J. Delaney-Lehman, Lake Superior State Univ. Lib., Sault Ste. Marie, MI
Nature writer Dennis (From a Wooden Canoe, 1999, etc.) enlivens his fine guide to the Great Lakes with a storyteller’s sense of pacing, savvily blending the factual with the picaresque. "Though I've lived near the Great Lakes most of my life," he admits, "there came a day a few years ago when I realized how little I knew about them. To get better acquainted, I drove around each of their shores." More than once, in fact, with frequent dallyings. Dennis spends a good amount of time on both developed and wild waterfronts, telling of the broad and curious array of people who lived there, tracking from the Paleolithic past through to the industries of sand and salt and honeycomb stone, describing the evolution of coastal geomorphology whose vivid geology is matched by an equally vivid history of bad weather. He spends even more time out on top of the waterscape aboard the schooner Malabar. These are burly waters with their own weather systems and tragic tales resulting therefrom, as well as a thousand landscapes to pass as the Malabar, sails from the author’s hometown of Traverse City, Michigan, to New York City. Dennis writes about them all in polished and alluring prosenot fancy, but not homespun either, just comfortably well worn. To explore sections of the lakes he doesn't visit on the Malabar he employs other means, from canoeing the northern shore of Superior to swimming off the shore of his house on Leelanau Peninsula. He threads environmental history throughout, from the utter degradation of the mid-20th century, when the US all but wrote the lakes off as dead, to what can cautiously be considered their resurrection, although the water’s clarity is mostly due to the zebra mussel,which trails botulism, toxic algae, and species loss in its wake. An enticing homecoming party for the Great Lakes, with a welcome-back for some readers and an invitation for others.