Thursday, September 8, 2022

Tim Returns to Minnesota in His Mind (vol. 4)

Hello from Tim once again!

Over the past few years, I've been blogging about reading a lot of Minnesota books, even though I've barely been to that great state. Going to Minnesota in my mind has helped me through our COVID-crazy days, and lately I'm seeing more clearly that life, beginning with 2020, has been seriously hard. So, I've joked in my blogs, including a song that I made up as I added a new verse with each blog (reprinted below, because it still makes me smile). If you've read any of them, thank you! The truth is that I just got excited about those Minnesota books, and many of the authors have done Boswell events. The books keep coming, so here I go... off to Minnesota in my mind.

My first adventure is with an author that’s new to me. Sinister Graves is the third volume in a murder mystery series by Marcie R Rendon, featuring Renee (Cash) Blackbear, a strong 19-year-old woman from Minnesota’s White Earth Ojibwe Reservation who lives across the Red River in Fargo, North Dakota. She’s already experienced a hell of a lot, including abuse from white foster families that called her a heathen. Just before foster care, a county sheriff pulled her impaired mother’s car out of a ditch. He watches out for her and got her into college classes, and Cash has been helping him with his cases. In dreams she sometimes sees things before they happen and finds out things she shouldn’t know. She’s just beginning to learn about it and just starting to live her own life. I like Cash Blackbear a lot, and I feel validated because Louise Erdrich likes Cash Blackbear a lot, too. Rendon is an enrolled member of the White Earth Nation and the truth she delivers from her characters and the landscape is gripping. I started with the third book, but now I’ve already gone back and read the first two. I love finding a cool new series!

My second neighbor-state escape is volume 19 in a series I’ve already grown to love, by William Kent Krueger, a Cork O'Connor mystery with a Northern Minnesota PI who’s got both Irish and Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) heritage. In Fox Creek, Krueger brings the focus back to Henry Meloux, a beloved Ojibwe friend and mentor to Cork who is well over 100 years old. A woman has come to Henry for help, not knowing that she’s been followed to his doorstep. He’ll need every ounce of his skill, vision, and enormous heart to lead her and the people he loves away from the forces on their trail. It may not be enough. Henry knows that one way or another his time to leave this life is near. When Krueger did a Boswell author event a few years back he told us that his indigenous fans say "not bad for a white man" about the way he develops Ojibwe characters. I laughed and felt relieved to hear validation of my true fondness for these fictional people. I’m a fan, and not just of Cork O’Connor. Krueger’s This Tender Land is one of the more beautiful novels I’ve ever read. Krueger will be back at Boswell on September 17th, 4 pm central (click here for more info), and I’ll be there working!

Finally, I’ve developed a great respect, after only two books, for a Minnesota writer name Peter Geye. People seem to know his Wintering novel best. I was very impressed with Northernmost and now equally so with The Ski Jumpers. Families are held together in such strange ways, and Johannes Bargaard has a family stretched so thin he hasn’t seen his beloved brother Anton for decades. Ski jumping is the one thread from their glory days that’s unbroken, but time is running out for Jon and Anton to do more than hide the frightening secrets that pushed them apart. Jon’s been told he has younger-onset Alzheimer’s and doesn’t know how long he’ll be able to trust his own mind or if he can finish writing one last successful novel. Their father’s funeral may be the only time left to fully uncover the bitter past. Geye gets the little details right as he brings his characters’ world to life, and his spectacular winter scenes of ski jumpers taking flight, from Chicago and throughout Minnesota to Madison and Lake Placid, surrounded me with a beautiful literary warmth. Geye will be at Boswell too, on September 25th, 2 pm central (more info here, clicky-click), and I will most certainly be looking for his next book! 

I’m wishing you all the very best as we try to recapture some sense of Earthly sanity (if that ever really existed), and I hope to see you at Boswell soon!

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. 

With walls of gifted authors all around me, 
still I’m on the dark side of the moon.
And this year of heartache feels 
more like forever.
You must forgive me, if I’m up and 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.

Once again, it’s Minnesota in my mind…
Say nice things about me ‘cause I’m gone,
gone… gone.
Carry on without me because I’m gone.
I’m… gone.
Gone to Minnesota in my mind.

                                             - Sweet Baby Tim

Oh, and here's the real Sweet Baby James doing the real Carolina in London!

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