Welcome to the resort town of Weneshkeen, nestled along Michigan's Gold Coast, where the sapphire-blue Lake Meenigeesis and the winding Oh-John-Ninny River lie within spitting distance of Lake Michigan. This once-quaint village-home of the yearly Sumac Days festival; a legendary bootlegger's mansion; and excellent locally made sausage, cherry pie, and fudge-has become a complex melting pot. There are townies and old-timers who still inhabit the simpler cottages along the shore; ritzy summer folk who've bought up the best lakefront and built view-blocking estates; migrant cherry pickers and wily river guides; there are even a few Ojibwe Indians still around. It is the summer of 2001, and one of these "original people," Roger Drinkwater, a 'Nam vet and lifelong resident, is plotting extra-legal revenge against the "idiot boy" jet-skiers polluting his beloved lake, even as he's pursuing Janey Struska, the take-no-guff deputy sheriff. Mean-while, Mark Starkey, a summer kid from downstate, stumbles into a danger-laced romance with the sexiest rich girl in town; the old-guard cherry farmer "Von" vonBushberger struggles with the legacy of his rapidly changing family; and the town's retired reverend discovers the Internet in the aftermath of his wife's death and finds a new friend in his computer tutor, Kimmy, a teenager who is having a challenging summer of her own.
Adult/High School-Weneshkeen, MI, a small town on a small lake, appears simple and quiet on the surface. But Amick peels back the picture-postcard serenity with a set of loosely connected stories that are often funny and always touching. Most are based on the conflict between the year-round residents and the summer people (called "fudgies" because of the quantities of the candy they buy at the various shops). Roger Drinkwater is an Ojibwe who served in Vietnam and now coaches the high school swim team. Tired of the noisy jet skis that make his daily swim difficult and dangerous, he enters a one-man crusade to sabotage them. Other stories include a farmer whose son marries a migrant worker and has to face his own feelings of racism, a teen fudgie who begins dating the summer beauty queen and finds that she may be more trouble then she's worth, and a businessman who starts a rumor that David Letterman is vacationing in the town to help sell his idea of Sumac Lemonade. The narrative is driven by the strength of the well-rounded, memorable, and likable characters. The down-home humor will remind readers of Garrison Keillor's "Lake Wobegon" tales (Viking), but Amick moves beyond the puns here and there to show the influence of T. C. Boyle. Darkly funny and bitterly poignant, this first novel is a great read for fans of quirky, well-wrought fiction.-Matthew L. Moffett, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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May 07, 2006
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Excerpt from The Lake, the River & the Other Lake by Steve Amick
There was a heavenly time, a sliver-thin window of peace that Roger Drinkwater cherished every year on Meenigeesis--those early days when the water warmed just enough for him to bear but all others steered clear and he could swim in peace and hear nothing but the water and his breath and the birds and the distant road: the way it had once been on this lake. It was a time before jet-skis; before the idiot boys on their idiot toys, as he thought of them in the little singsong chant that drummed in his head the rest of each summer.
One misty predawn in late May, he got his first indication that the lake was now warm enough for at least a few intrepid others. Kids, of course, tended to brave the waters sooner than their finicky parents, and the evidence he found was something that obviously came from a child. It was floating, half-submerged, at the end of his dock, and he bumped his head against it on the return lap of his morning swim: an underwater toy in the shape of a flattened megaphone, purple plastic with a green mouthpiece. If it hadn't had a brand name, Sub-Speaker, stamped on the side, he might not have known what it was for.
He stood there in the water, examining it, disgusted. Plastic toys lost in the lake were essentially just pollution. Still, he wondered how well it worked. Glancing around first to make sure he was alone, he knelt to the waterline and put the mouthpiece to his lips. What came out was Chief Joseph One-Song's famous words to Congress: "Nimaanaadendam gaa zhi binaadkamgiziik . . ."
The water was so still, the sound waves would carry as if across a drumhead. It's funnier, he decided, if no one can see me, and so he dropped lower in the water, the toy just nosing above the waterline, and he repeated the phrase, making it more guttural and ominous and spooky. He imagined some dumb cluck on the other side, those rich weekend warriors with the matching hot pink jet-skis and that pontoon boat, looking out and shuddering, unable to spot him, unable to understand the words, just knowing that the words were ancient, foreboding, and they would feel very, very uneasy. It was hard to do it without snickering.
roger drinkwater was actually only seven-eighths Indian (Ojibwe or Chippewa--or Anishinaabe, if you wanted to get precious about it, which he never did--of the Ojaanimiziibii band). The little bit left over was actually Polish, his mom's mom having come up as a young girl from Hamtramck, outside Detroit, back in the twenties. She thought she would be spending just the one summer--out at Cliffhead, the place people now called "the bootlegger's"--working as a nanny for the Fifels, the family of the man known at the time as the Rumbleseat King. She once told Roger she thought that at most she might learn to swim that summer. But much more than that happened. She got involved with Roger's grandfather, John Birchtree, a leather-dark Indian boy who helped out in the Fifels' stables, and she got in trouble and knew she could never go back home and so they got married, both of them still teenagers. Even if she hadn't gotten in trouble, it would have been damaging enough just to have been briefly mixed up with an Indian boy: there were other Hamtramck girls in the household staff and they would return with the Fifels, bringing sordid stories of the summer, and she would be ruined back home. Beyond ruined, she might be in actual danger there.