Sunday, March 28, 2021
Friday, March 19, 2021
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund. Fourteen-year-old Madeline, called Linda, or "Commie" or "Freak" at school, is growing up in Loose River, Minnesota, the Walleye Capitol of the World, a place where summer tourists crowd a very small one-street town. Her parents and other families came in the early 1980s as a group, trying to create one communal family. Long ago the others gave up, leaving Linda, with her mother and father, living in a tiny cabin. She struggles with isolation but doesn't hesitate to introduce herself to the Gardner family, at their beautiful new house across the lake. Patra and Leo, with their four-year-old son Paul, become the center of Linda's story as she helps to care for Paul. She has a strong, steady voice and a direct honesty that made me proud of her. Even as her story takes a frightening turn in an ever more complicated household, I wanted to stay with her and hear what she had to say. It's an exceptional debut novel.
The Birchbark House, the beginning of a children's series she wrote to retrace her own Ojibwa family history. It opens with a baby girl found on Lake Superior's Madeline Island, the only person left alive when Smallpox took the rest. Yes, I know the island is not in Minnesota, but those divisions came long after Ojibwa origins, and Erdrich is a Minneapolis icon. As an elementary school teacher, I was always grateful for the beauty of this story and for the confidence I had in its truth. I will certainly keep coming back to Minnesota with this series and with Erdrich's adult novels.
Minnesota in My Mind
(to the tune of James Taylor's Carolina in My Mind)
In my mind I’m gone to Minnesota.
Can’t you feel the snowfall?
Just leave your boots out in the hall.
Car gets stuck, and then it stalls.
Ya get hit from behind.
Yes, I’m gone to Minnesota in my mind.
Heard some stuff from a Facebook friend who lives there.
When my verse reduced her home to misery in snow.
It’s not a bad place, she said.
For a bit I hung my head.
But held on to a longing for
this land I’ve never known.
I’m still gone to Minnesota in my mind.
Spring’ll come again to Minnesota.
All that ice is bound to crack.
Free us from this bind.
Frozen brains can thaw at last,
with a little heat from northern writers of all kinds.
Oh, I’m back in Minnesota in my mind!
- Sweet Baby Tim
Monday, March 15, 2021
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
And you'll definitely want to snag a ticket for our upcoming event featuring Kazuo Ishiguro in conversation with Ron Charles, book critic extraordinaire for the Washington Post on Tuesday, March 16, 6 pm- tickets and more info at ishiguromke.eventbrite.com.Brood, the debut novel by Jackie Polzin. Tim says, "Give it some time. That’s my advice about Brood. Let the book peck at you for a while and you’ll be rewarded. I didn’t know that I completely loved it until the last three pages. Then I suddenly knew. Completely. This book is all of life told in the story of four backyard chickens. Our narrator’s voice comes straight at us - a bit sassy, sly, mostly sure-minded - even as she maintains a subtle neighborhood diplomacy. The contrast is wonderful. Chickens help her tell us boldly about loss and the inescapable hardships of living, but she’s not bitter. She sees the beautiful workings of her simple birds, and of people: her chicken-hesitant friend Helen, her staunchly independent mother, her very reasonable husband Percy, the awkward neighbors, and how all of life creates dust. Mix in Minnesota’s climate extremes and a changing neighborhood. You’ll get a growing sense that you’re reading something very special, richly human. Let Brood peck at you. There’s nothing quite like it."
Another event reminder here: The March installment of the Ink/Well virtual event series, featuring authors in conversation with Wisconsin’s own Jane Hamilton and cohosted by InkLink Books of East Troy, features Jackie Polzin on Thursday, March 18, 7 pm. Register right here for that event now!