cover image South of Superior

South of Superior

Ellen Airgood.. Riverhead, $25.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-59448-793-4

In Airgood's charming yet uninspired debut, Madeline Stone takes a job caring for Gladys Hansen, the final companion of the grandfather she never knew, and Gladys's ailing sister in McAllaster, Mich. On the north coast of Lake Superior she finds "a wide, wild quiet, so spacious it seemed endless, and she wondered how it might change a person." Gladys, the younger, feistier of the two sisters, is desperate to hold onto the old ways even as modern life becomes too obvious to ignore. She's the bad cop to her sister's good, and Madeline finds it hard to adjust to her meanness. She also finds it discomfiting when locals comment on her resemblance to ancestors she never knew, and Gladys is less than forthcoming about the Stone family history. To help fill her days, Madeline takes a part-time job at the local pizzeria and becomes close to Paul, the owner, who has financial woes of his own. Over time, Madeline and Gladys make peace, and old secrets are revealed. An abandoned child that Madeline takes in finally allows Airgood to address her prevailing theme%E2%80%94the true nature of family. (June)