Apparently, you go to war with the military you have. In my case, I go out to read on the back porch on a spectacular summer Sunday in Minnesota with the random mystery I could find, because I have utterly lost the book I was reading somewhere in the house.
People love to argue about the universality of fiction; how Homer or Shakespeare or Michael Crichton speaks to the human condition of war, heartbreak, and dinosaurs rampaging on a Latin American island. I don't know about all of this, but I do know something about the locality
of this specific fiction. I'm a Minnesotan; I speak with a pretty strong accent; I make my (non-native) husband nuts with my exaggerated diphthongs and the use of the phrase “or no?” instead of “or not?” (As in the question, “Do you want to go with, or no?” The dropped “me” after the preposition makes him nuts too. Poor guy. Welcome to the Midwest.)
Anyway, I had a super duper good time reading this book (so much so that I got beaned in the face by the boy hitting a wiffle ball that knocked off my glasses) but I hesitate to say it was good, you know? There's a lot for a local to dig on: all the Wadenas and LaDucs and Ericksons I know from school and life; the sense of impending winter in the sharp tang of October wind; the uneasy relationships between whites and Natives, Lutherans and Catholics, people who have lived in a small, Northern town for 20 years, and the local-born who view those people as interlopers.
But (but) there's a lot to this book that bums me out and makes me tired. There was a gay C&W star who spoke like there were coons treed in the moonshine and he was sad about the coal mine shuttin' down. It was just an incest joke away from total Appalachian caricature, and I didn't really appreciate it. In addition, there were Las Vegas Mafia types, complete with goomba hairstyles, and that was lame too. When the author added in a survivor from the Watts riots, I rolled my eyes so hard I sprained my eyeballs. Although it could have been the wiffle ball to the face.
And this may be just a local complaint, but every single time I read the name of the character Marais Grand, I cringed. Grand Marais, “the big meadow”, is a town I know and love on the North Shore of Lake Superior, about an hour and half south of the Canadian Border. That someone would be named Marais Grand kills me as if someone were named Chase Chevy, Moines Des, or York New. It's bad plotting man, even if it isn't plotting. Stop it right now.
But back to plotting: the story rips. There's lot of death-by-ax, and portaging, and Native American spirit freaking animals (thankfully they don't talk) but our intrepid protagonist Cork O'Connor (this name bugs me too) knows when to hold 'em and when to serve some hamburgers and when to have a show down with unlikely stone cold killer the Bad Guy found on the Internet.
So, yeah, maybe this book sucks a bit, but it sucks in a local way, and it warms my heart as only shoe packs and hot dish can warm my heart. Winter's coming. Even when it's summer.