Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Review: Stuck in Manistique by Dennis Cuesta

I love the UP. I have spent at least a part of every summer there since I was born. As a result of my love for it, I was very excited to see a book, especially one that is not a mystery, set there. In fact, I've been to every last place mentioned in Dennis Cuesta's funny and generally readable new novel, Stuck in Manistique.

Mark is a financial planner in Chicago but his Aunt Vivian has died and he needs to head to Michigan to handle her estate. He didn't know his aunt well. When he was young, she wrote him letters from her far flung postings with Medecins sans Frontieres but her letters tapered off when he was 13 and aside from later trying to alert her when his mother died, that was that for their relationship. She's left all of her estate to him despite this distance. Knowing of her long time good works around the world, Mark is more than a little shocked to discover that she had opened a small bed and breakfast in tiny Manistique, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Emily Davis is a newly graduated O.D. who is on her way to her parents' house before moving to Chicago for the next phase of her education. She's taking a weekend visit to Mackinac Island with her very married boyfriend and mentor first though. As she drives north towards her new life, she debates with herself the right thing to do with regards to this relationship, especially in light of the death of a child under her mentor's care for which she feels responsible. When she decides to speed past the exits for the ferry docks to the Island, she heads into the UP and eventually into the path of a deer, shattering her windshield and landing her on the doorstep at Mark's Aunt Vivian's bed and breakfast.

Although Mark has no intention of being an innkeeper, he takes pity on Emily and without telling her that Vivian has died, he allows her to stay at the Manistique Victorian. Opening his door to her eventually leads to a full house of kooky eccentrics including George, who might be in the beginning stages of dementia or Alzheimer's, and a couple intent on being the first to drive around Lake Michigan in an electric car. Add to these guests two related, perhaps identical, police officers (one local and one state), a Native handyman who has visions, and the local doctor and you've got a recipe for total chaos at the bed and breakfast.

The third person narrative focus alternates by chapter between Mark and Emily as they are the two characters around whom everything revolves but also the two who have major life changing decisions in front of them. The novel is quite fast moving and very dialogue heavy, almost as if Cuesta envisions this more as a screenplay than as a novel. In fact, at times, things moved so quickly that I had to re-read pages to make sure I hadn't missed anything. I hadn't but there were gaps where a little exposition might have helped. The tone of the story changes from a sweet tale about family and relationship to a screwball comedy of sorts and then back again once the secrets the characters spend a long time hiding from each other come out.  Take note that when I say relationship, I do not mean a romantic relationship; this is not a love story.  As excited as I was for the setting of the novel, I don't think it totally captures the spirit of the area and the uniqueness that is the UP and its inhabitants. Of course, most of the characters are not actually Yoopers so perhaps that explains why the feel is mostly missing. Despite this (and really, most people probably won't notice this), the book was a quick, light read for a couple of hours and other readers familiar with the area will enjoy seeing their remote corner of the world name checked in a book.

Thanks to the publisher for giving me access to this book to review.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I have had to disable the anonymous comment option to cut down on the spam and I apologize to those of you for whom this makes commenting a chore. I hope you'll still opt to leave me your thoughts. I love to hear what you think, especially so I know I'm not just whistling into the wind here at my computer.

Popular Posts