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South of Superior by Ellen Airgood

Ellen Airgood is a diner manager in Michigan, and South of Superior is her debut novel.  This is the kind of novel that reads fast.  A lot happens while at the same time nothing really happens--it's one of those kind of stories.

Chicago raised Madeline Stone still reels from the death of her beloved adoptive mother, Emmy, a year ago.  Abandoned by her mother, rejected by her grandfather, who refused to raise her and from whom she remained estranged for the rest of his life, Madeline accepts an invitation from Gladys, her grandfather's girlfriend, and Glady's sister, Arbutus, to return to tiny McAllaster, Michigan, town of her birth, to assist in caring for Arbutus, who's become crippled by arthritis.

McAllaster is a tiny, one street town on the coast of Lake Superior where less than 1000 people live year round.  The natives struggle to make ends meet while the rich out of towners summer in mansions built on the lake shore that drive up taxes and drive out native McAllaster residents.  The economic situation of the main characters and their fellow natives becomes almost another character in the story as Gladys heads for a legal showdown with wealthy interlopers bent on changing 'how things have been done in McAllaster for generations.'

Upon arriving in McAllaster, Madeline develops an uneasy and difficult rapport with Gladys, who reluctantly doles out bits of Madeline's Stone family history piece by piece.  However, Madeline is there for Arbutus in whom she senses a kindred spirit with Emmy.  There's also a romance or two thrown in there for good measure.

It seems as if the story splits itself between too many plots--there's the conflict between McAllaster natives and the new establishment, Madeline's mystery shrouded family history, the weird tension between Gladys and Madeline, and the romantic subplots.  The story never really decides which one to focus on to the detriment of all the threads running through the story.  As a result Gladys' and Madeline's tension seems manufactured for drama while Madeline's family history reveals no great revelation.  Nevertheless the book has the kind of ending that leaves a smile on the reader's face.

This book is on shelf at the library--check it out the next time you visit!

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

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