Washington, December 11, 2011 — Ellen Airgood’s debut novel, South of Superior is an intriguing saga centering on the aging sisters Gladys and Arbutus. Their tenuous relationship with young Madeline Stone ends up creating a space in remote McAllaster, Michigan for growth and inspiration.
Madeline had been abandoned/ignored by her birth family, later being adopted by the struggling, single, but warm and loving Emmy in the bustling big city of Chicago. After Emmy’s death, Madeline finds herself alone yet engaged to a productive and promising partner. But he seems reticent to make that final commitment.
As a result, Madeline chooses instead to move to McAllaster, Michigan, a small town on Lake Superior. Here, she’s been engaged to aid a pair of elderly sisters—none other than Gladys and Arbutus. A complicated backstory unfolds, as Madeline is, in fact, their long-lost-step-adopted-out granddaughter. Their hope: to explore and perhaps resolve long time family injuries.
How this troubled family finds a way to reconnect is also the complex story of a isolated, lost small town. The good news: it’s a place where neighbors will always pitch in to help out. The bad news: everyone knows everyone’s business.
Finding one’s way in the world is a hard thing to do. But it also lies at the core of this enjoyable and rewarding story detailing how Madeline makes peace with her past and discovers a future. Airgood artfully introduces readers to her homey and heartfelt prose and delightful characters. It’s all a lovely, enjoyable read.
A self-taught writer and not the product of academic workshops, Ellen Airgood still proudly runs a diner in Grand Marais, on the northern shore of Michigan’s remote, windswept Upper Peninsula. It’s the gateway to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and clearly serves as the model for her latest novel’s fictional McCallaster. You can learn more about Ellen Airgood at her website here.
South of Superior, by Ellen Airgood. New York: Riverhead, 2011. 384 pages. (ISBN-10: 1594487936.