LAKE COUNTRY by Kathleen Stocking


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In this sequel to Letters From Leelanau (not reviewed), Stocking sets out from her farmhouse on Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula to explore her home state --"" as good a microcosm"" as any, she asserts, for an examination of contemporary American culture. Her series of deliberately haphazard journeys produces a thoughtful collection of essays and sketches about the lasting diversity of the daily round in the small towns and back roads of the country's rugged northern edge. Drawn particularly to the islands of the Great Lakes, Stocking is in search of an ""island of 'unchange' in a sea of change"" where life is simpler and people know and trust their neighbors. She finds it on Bois Blanc, an insular community that admits the best modernity has to offer -- computers in its one-room schoolhouse, an ""astonishingly sophisticated"" bookstore -- and staves off the worst. On Drummond Island she follows the public battle between a crusading journalist and Tom Monaghan, the Domino's Pizza magnate, over a rustic community's future. On Sugar Island she hopes to show her daughter Gaia, whose father is an Ottawa Indian, ""people who look like her just living their lives."" For Stocking, island life is a welcome anachronism, and she records its rhythms lovingly: the daily arrivals and departures at ferry landings; the seasonal wax and wane of the population; and the distinctions that separate natives from outsiders and the islands themselves from the mainland. A constant is the author's own introspection, an earnest self-examination that only seldom wears thin as she interweaves personal history with more far-reaching questions about society, fate, democracy, morality, and the nature of God and the universe. Stocking's sharp descriptions of the natural world help ground these abstractions, and her enthusiasm for travel and for the lives of strangers enlivens a richly detailed narrative.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1994
Page count: 300pp
Publisher: Univ. of Michigan Press