The essays range from the world of a foreign correspondent to a meditation on the smells associated with a northern Michigan farm; from the odor of light oil used to sharpen tools and lubricate machinery, the stink at the bottom of a silo, the common odor of sour milk, and the all-pervasive scent of wood smoke. Other essays describe his neighbors who get by on subsistence farming, a recollection of Charlevoix in the middle of the last century when there was a strict separation of Jewish and Christian neighborhoods. Strangely enough, many of the Jewish and Christian summer residents were from Chicago where they continually crossed paths while doing business in the Windy City. There's a great chapter on fishing, boating, and lake living in which he recalls the first time a steelhead hit his lure. He writes, "I thought at first that something terrible had happened to the rod, reel, boat, maybe the world."
Eisendrath is a thoroughly engaging author who writes movingly of how the love of place and pleasure of putting down roots is such an important part of a well-lived life. Each of the chapters or essays are small literary gems that bring past and present northern Michigan, it's people and way of life joyously alive.
Downstream from Here: A Big Life in a Small Place by Charles R. Eisendrath. Mission Point Press, 2019, $19.95.
B. G. Bradley is not afraid to experiment with narrative styles. Thumbing through his first book with all its narrative kinks and novelties I thought it would be unreadable yet I became completely caught up in the novel. He takes similar chances with narrative style and pacing with this book. Most of the book is composed of very short chapters as Jake tells his story to friends and family and wrestles with what to do. Interspersed with the chapters set in Hunter Lake are brief scenes from a host of different locations ranging from sessions with a therapist to airports, Fiji, and a hunting camp in the U.P. to name a few. At first, the reader doesn't know if all the narrative jumping about is in chronological order or are flashbacks. Ultimately, it doesn't matter because the brief chapters become brushstrokes of a talented portrait artist adding depth and character to his subject.
Once again the author's unorthodox style snares the reader and pulls them into Jake's life and his struggle to decide on a path of his post playboy life. The book is not without surprise twists and turns. As with all Bradley's books on the denizens of Hunter Lake, the heart of this novel helps define home, love, family, and the unexpected turns one's life can take. I am eagerly looking forward to meeting yet another fascinating character from Hunter Lake. Hopefully in the near future.
Fallback by B. G. Bradley. Benegamah Press, 2019, $9.95
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