Post # 15
Quote for the day: "The Lord probably could have built a better river for rum running [than the Detroit River]. But the Lord probably never did." Roy Haunes, Michigan Prohibition Commissioner. 1920.
Sustaining Lake Superior: An Extraordinary Lake in a Changing World by Nancy Langston. Yale University Press. 2017. $35.
The indefatigable Briggs has a motto that pretty much sums up his attitude toward life, "I've got this." In his senior year, he did volunteer work at a senior center where he developed ten, what Briggs calls "Old Person Smiles," which he is sure can be employed to handle virtually any situation life throws at him. One of which he calls, "No, Nixon Is Not the Current President Smile." The volunteer work leads to a summer job in South Haven cleaning, painting, and repairing a Victorian house owned by an 84-year-old widow. Lake Michigan is only steps away from the Victorian's front door and Briggs looks upon the next two months as a vacation before his life's plan and lots of hard work starts him toward his first million.
In Briggs' short life, the Henry family has gone from riches to rags. Dad had an Oldsmobile dealership. When GM dropped the car Mr. Henry took a buy out and invested all his money in property. This was in 2008 when the economy crashed and property values left the Henry's penniless. The family went from a mansion to what his mom calls a "shoebox." The 28-foot yacht was sold, and they even had to give away their dog. So being a success and making money is very important to Briggs.
The book is filled with memorable characters but Briggs' Grandma Ruth and Mrs. Bozic who hires Briggs for the summer steal every scene in which they appear. Mrs. Bosic is Serbian and has an accent that twists English into knots. The first time Briggs and Mrs. Bozic meet and the lady tries to teach Briggs to correctly pronounce her name is nearly as funny as the Abbott and Costello "Who's on First" bit. Briggs also acts as the lady's chauffeur and finds himself driving Mrs. Bozic to countless, what she calls, "her funerals."
Grandma Ruth is also in her 80s. She is stern, tight-lipped, often gruff, and demanding. She also can't stand sarcasm which Briggs spouts with the regularity of Old Faithful. Grandma Ruth's graduation present to her grandson is a ficus plant which she dares him to kill. Briggs knows there's, "No saying no to Grandma Ruth. Not even no, thank you. She was a kind of a fascist, and my parents were not a part of the resistance movement." Grandma also liked to arrive without warning and leave without goodbyes. Or as Briggs says, "Coming or going, she was like the wind. The wind or diarrhea."
Then there is Abigail, the intriguing and rather mysterious girl living next door to Mrs. Bozic. Briggs finds himself attracted to Abigail even though she seems somewhat eccentric, doesn't like to talk about herself, has a tongue sharper than a filleting knife, and is addicted to Oreo cookies.
Briggs is in for quite a summer, one that will challenge his belief in his master plan or even trying to make a plan. The book is billed as a YA novel but this on-the-cusp-of-senility reviewer enjoyed the book immensely. Maybe because like everyone else my age, we know carefully laid plans are as changeable as Michigan weather. Any adult will enjoy this smart, funny, and wise book and will be sorry to turn the last page because they'll want to spend more time with the characters.
The Lake Effect by Erin McCahan. Dial Books. 2017. $17.99