OOne of the great things about summer in Michigan is that we don’t have to leave the state to escape to a beautiful and relaxing place. But what’s a weekend by the lake without a good book to read in the hammock between naps? And with four new Michigan-related novels now, why not give your beach a Michigan beach read? Here’s a brief guide to the voice, mood, and flavor of each book that will have you turning the pages.
Em’s Horrible Good Fortune By Marcie Maxfield
Ground: The narrator, Em, recounts what outwardly looks like an adventurous life as an expatriate “Tagalong woman”, with stints in Japan, South Korea, France and China. Her husband’s job overseeing the construction of arenas and exhibition sites is the reason for their nomadic family life, but as the novel opens, the middle-aged couple discover Shanghai, which would host the first deployment of the couple without their two children (now adults), if Em agrees to come. She’s had to compromise and sacrifice her own career aspirations to keep her family together over the years, and the novel jumps in time and place to show precisely how this couple arrived at this new chapter in which Em and his husband must finally face the other and the legacy of their choices.
Michigan’s role: Maxfield now lives in Los Angeles, but she grew up in Detroit and tells Em the same backstory, which comes up here and there: “Ortheia Barnes sang ‘You Are My Friend’ at our wedding. Ortheia was Detroit soul royalty, tall and bluesy. Andra and I used to hang out at a nightclub where she worked, sit in the powder room with her during breaks between sets and chatting.
The biggest hook: The caustic and angry narrative voice of Em. Because you’ve known all along that the couple has at least reached the “raising kids” finish line, Em’s Horrible Good Fortune relies heavily on the reader connecting with the smart, funny woman looking back in her 40s in order to see her path forward.
boys first By Aaron Foley
Ground: Three black homosexuals in their thirties face turning points in their lives and in their collective friendship. Dominick, a Detroit transplant living in Hell’s Kitchen in New York, suddenly finds himself out of a job, then comes home to find his longtime boyfriend having sex with another man. To figure out his next move, he returns to Detroit, where his old friend Troy — a socially conscious teacher with a complicated boyfriend situation — introduces him to an extremely successful real estate agent named Remy, who is dating two men who won’t commit. not. . The three friends support and check each other as they face challenges big and small.
Michigan’s role: Detroit is essentially the fourth main character in this book, providing not only a backdrop but also regularly discussed and unpacked by the three men: “At first, I couldn’t get Roland to go out with me in public in Detroit. … But now we have started doing brunch downstairs at Andiamo. And that turned into walks along the Riverwalk. And you know, by Detroit standards, a romantic stroll on the Riverwalk is damn close to a marriage proposal.
The biggest hook: A light prose that still manages to address some basic issues (racism, gentrification, etc.) boys first feeling like an all-male romantic comedy with teeth. Told from the perspective of the friends – although strangely only Remy narrates in the first person, which was initially shocking – the novel unabashedly focuses on the men’s relationships, their friendship and their evolving sense of self.
Chevy in the hole By Kelsey Ronan
Ground: At the start of the book, 26-year-old August, brought back from the dead with Narcan, returns from Detroit to his hometown of Flint. While stumbling through something like recovery (as the city’s water crisis looms), August begins volunteering at a local farm, where he is attracted to the determined young activist Monae. Meanwhile, through August’s relatives from previous generations, Ronan offers a sort of tour of Flint’s rich, ragged past, so that readers’ understanding of this famous city and its people will be deepened at some point. where the biggest blow of all is ready to fall.
Michigan’s role: It’s a book about Flint and its people, plain and simple. The title, a reference to a part of Flint where an automobile factory once stood, is described as: “A concrete bowl dug in the middle of town and crossed by the Flint River, it once housed acres of assembly line Chevy. . Birds were falling from power lines. …Train tracks that once blew car parts had been turned into a bike path. When August was little and his father was pink, the hill had seemed so much steeper.
The biggest hook: Ronan’s observant literary prose, as well as a curiosity sparked by Flint, a town that has long held an important (but perhaps misunderstood) place in the local landscape. To grapple with the present, we all need to examine the past that got us to this point, and Ronan achieves this through both a family story and an unlikely romance between opposites.
Renovated to death By Franck Antoine
Ground: A gay couple from suburban Detroit — a writer, Peter, and an actor, JP — have made a name for themselves as the hosts of a renovation show, and they’re set to do a second season. Over a hearty dinner with neighbors, Tom Cash, a handsome elderly man who likes to love and leave them, urges the couple to take care of his long-deceased parents’ home as their next project, even if his quieter twin, Terry, seems uncomfortable with the changes and the possible sale of their childhood home. When Tom is found dead at the foot of the stairs in the house, Peter and JP suddenly have a mystery to solve.
Michigan’s role: Located in the ever so thinly disguised suburb of Detroit (Pleasant Woods, Royal Heights, Fernridge), Renovated nevertheless keeps his observations real: “On the west side of Woodward Avenue, the main artery that ran through the community, lavish dwellings sat on oversized upper-middle-class lots. The East Side – affectionately nicknamed Peasant Woods – gave way to smaller properties whose owners, although still well off, earned much lower incomes.
The biggest hook: Cozy mysteries live and die (ahem) by whatever company the reader can keep while the murder is solved, and from the first chapter, this group of witty gay men (and a straight antique shop owner ) make fun companions. Plus, if home improvement shows are your thing, there are plenty of architectural details that will likely seal the deal.