Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Spell on the Water by Marjorie Cole

When Mary Leader’s husband died the summer of 1957, everyone expected her to sell the lakeside resort in northern lower Michigan where they had been spending their summers, settle down in Chicago and collect welfare while she raised their five children with the support of her in-laws.  When she returned to the resort that fall to close it down, she devised a different plan. 

A Spell on the Water is told from alternating points of view of different family members and spans 15 years.  One of the strengths of this book is how well balanced it is.  Each scene is carefully drawn out; the pacing is exactly right.  Each family member is a developing character.  Mary learns both her strengths and limitations as a parent and provider.  Each child in turn learns how to survive childhood and forge a path outside of the family. 

When I first met Marjorie Cole in 1988, she was a librarian and I was a graduate student in a creative writing program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  Little did I know then that almost 20 years later she would be visiting me in Marquette, MI.  In 2006 she came to give a reading from her first book, Bellwether Prize winning Correcting the Landscape,  here at the Peter White Public Library.  Marjorie died of cancer in 2009, shortly before this latest novel was accepted for publication.  She was an environmentalist, an expansive thinker, and a role model. 

E.M. -- Reference Desk

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