Lake & Island Notes                       July 2015

Apostle Islands Booksellers
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Featured Title


by Dean Bakopoulos

We have had our fair share of hot summer days this year, and this book is the perfect companion for those days. The cover can be a bit deceptive, however, as this is not your typical lighthearted beach read. In the course of one hot summer night, Claire and Don Lowry discover that married life isn't quite what they expected. The characters in this novel are complex and real. They are questioning what they are doing and where they are going in life. Beautifully written and filled with both sadness and dark humor, Summerlong explores the humanity is those everyday characters that we all know and may relate to more than we'd like to admit.

Featured Title

The Hummingbird's Daughter   

by Luis Alberto Urrea

This phantasmagoric epic set during the Porfiriato of late 19th century Mexico is a force to be reckoned with. Twenty years in the writing and five-hundred pages in length it weaves an imaginative story of the life of Teresita – Urrea’s actual great aunt – a saint who was a shaman as well as an inspiration of indigenous rebellion. Rife with polarities - tenderness and violence, sweetness and gore, realism and fantasy, life and death - the narrative is both gripping and repellent. Especially interesting is the depiction of the life of the hacendados of Sinaloa, Sonora, and even up into Arizona and their relationship to the People – the indigenous tribes of northern Mexico and the American southwest. The characters are radiant and the writing is vivid. This book was thoroughly enjoyed this past spring by the AIB Book Club - A good, long, summer read.

Featured Title

Being Mortal
by Atul Gawande

In Being Mortal, Dr. Gawande argues that aging and dying are seen as medical conditions - versus being seen as the final stages of life - as heroic intervention has become increasingly commonplace. He tells the stories of his aging loved ones, illustrates the checkered history and promising present of elder care in the U.S., and recounts his own failings, strivings, and successes in communicating openly about death and dying with patients. Gawande offers hope about a subject many people (doctors included) are wary of but which we must bravely broach if our lives’ ends are to reflect our values. Advocating a culture-wide shift in approach to palliative care through support of a full life to the end, Being Mortal is a hopeful, important, and thoroughly engaging take on life and death.
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Apostle Islands Booksellers
Bayfield, Wisconsin
What a summer it has been! Bayfield Race Week was quite successful - light winds, but happy sailors. The Summer Concert in the Park Series has been well attended with not one of them held indoors yet. The community has welcomed some amazing talent to the stage at Big Top Chautauqua. And finally, we are still recovering from our busiest weekend yet, with the Annual Festival of Arts bringing in amazing talents from all over the Midwest. Mother Nature has cooperated and all-in-all, this has been a glorious summer season.

We don’t always agree here in the bookstore.  For example, with regard to the publication of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman (sequel/prequel to To Kill a Mockingbird), we have had some barbed exchanges.  There are some (or at least one curmudgeon among us) who find the entire brouhaha over its release unbecoming to the book business.  The carefully orchestrated hype has been more than a bit too much!  The “news” of the discovery of the manuscript, the “newsworthy” changes in the actual facts of the discovery, the carefully nurtured story of Ms. Lee’s role in the publication, safe deposit boxes, Southeby’s, and new leaks every day. Bookstores get on board with midnight parties on opening day, massive displays, special events, reports of massive pre-orders and summer rents being paid on the proceeds of local sales. This sort of thing is for reality TV, not bookselling. The question is: aside from the association with Harper Lee and Mockingbird, is the book any good?
On the other hand, there are those of us who embrace the excitement about this new book. Whatever its quality, it is generating conversation and sales. How could either of these things have a negative impact on the book industry? There are small bookstores closing all over this country and, if they are able to float themselves a bit further due to the excitement behind one title, why shouldn't they? Will we sell enough copies to pay our rent? No, but we've already sold enough to cover our phone and internet bill for the month. It's a dozen or two hardcover books we may or may not have sold otherwise. Yes, there has been hype – maybe too much. Whether it is a good thing or not, we live in a society where you need to make a lot of noise to get any traction. This is the case with the big movies, the latest iPhones, and many other items including books. We are delighted that people are still getting excited about books in this way! Go Set a Watchman has generated such interesting conversation: the evolution of  Atticus Finch; the subject of racism (which is clearly still a huge issue today); and, how the adult Scout deals with the man her father has become. Finally, it is good if people are simply willing to read the book because they are so passionate about Mockingbird. Yes, the question stands: Is this a good book? The reviews are mixed, but at least we're talking about it.

Remember, if you’ve lost yours,
we are your local bookstore!

All of us at AIB

What we're reading...

by Karen Russell

A familiar story—a flawed family struggling to heal after a traumatic death—is told against the shimmering and otherworldly backdrop of the Florida Everglades in Swamplandia!, Karen Russell’s debut novel. Remarkably similar in style and content to Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love, this book is perfect for the reader looking for the unique experience that only novels about dysfunctional carnival families can provide. Through the perspective of thirteen-year-old Ava Bigtree, Swamplandia!’s protagonist (and the best alligator wrestler in the tri-state area), Dunn seamlessly juxtaposes themes of the mystical and the mundane, loneliness and camaraderie, innocence and corruption. You’ll find yourself rooting for Ava, who, above all else, is just a kid scrambling to piece together the broken and scattered shards of “The Bigtree Clan." Perfect for a sweltering August night when our Wisconsin wetlands seem similar to Florida’s ghostly swamps.
Magic of Reality
by Richard Dawkins

We think Richard Dawkins gets a bad rap for his supposed “belligerent attacks” on religion and his alleged “aggressive atheism,”  That has not been our experience of him over the years from The Selfish Gene to The Greatest Show on Earth. His work has  been thoughtful and sober and reflective of his deep belief in the primacy of evidence-based inquiry as opposed to myth, superstition, magic and the “miraculous.” This little book takes his perspective down to the young adult level and explains things like evolution, the cosmos, the rainbow, and seismology in easily understood terms. The science-challenged adult would profit as well. His point, of course, is to drive home the notion that skepticism and rigor underlie the path to knowing, as best we can, what is true.
Red Moon
by Benjamin Percy

Percy uses a United States gripped by fear from horrific attacks on defenseless citizens by werewolf- like creatures.  These  "lycans" form the backdrop for this gripping tale of deceit, torture and political misuse of power. The story of the three main characters, Claire, Patrick and Chase are the threads Percy uses to weave together a plot that rapidly shifts time frames and integrates a supporting cast that can be oddly charming or sadistically vile. The ever increasing tensions between the infected lycan terrorists and the non-infected populace results in a frenetic race to develop a vaccine and powerful behavior modifying drugs, and the winner of the race is in doubt until the last few pages. This book should not be read during a full moon.

Final Thoughts...


Crystal Declension

Well, two things are certain --
              the sun will rise and the sun will set.
Most everything else is up for grabs.
It's back on its way down now
As a mother moose and her twin calves
Step lightly, lightly
              across the creek through the understory
Amid half-lit grasses,
Then disappear in a clutch of willow bushes.
                                                      If one, anyone,
Could walk through his own life as delicately, as sure,
As she did, all wreckage, all deadfall,
Would stay sunlight, and ring like crystal among the trees.

                         ~ Charles Wright, from Caribou
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