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Published September 11, 2010, 11:59 AM

Unique reads with local flavor

By: Lindsy O'Brien, Living North

When seeking out summer and autumn reading to help celebrate our few blissfully mild months here in the Northland, it’s hard not to be drawn to stories and poems of our own lakes, rivers and hills. Wisconsin author

Janet Kay’s novel “Waters of the Dancing Sky” fits this bill perfectly.

Kay’s story begins in a Chicago high-rise with a view of Lake Michigan and follows soon-to-be divorced Beth Calhoun as she treks back to her childhood home on Rainy Lake. When she receives a call that her grandmother

is dying, Beth escapes her abusive husband and journeys to say goodbye to the woman who raised her. Beth’s story unfolds along the shores and islands of Rainy Lake as she delves into the mysteries surrounding the

unknown identity of her father and her mother’s death on the lake years earlier.

Steeped in enticing description of the northern Minnesota wilderness, Beth’s solitary life on her grandmother’s Rainy Lake island leads her on a journey of healing and self discovery. Kay also manages to interweave

her story with details about the recent and long-past history of the Rainy Lake area. Though readers may anticipate the plot twists, that same predictability adds to the charm of the novel. It is a comfortable local

read, ideal for curling up with a cup of tea on a rainy “up north” afternoon.

While digging through my crowded bookshelf for a few good books to take along on a camping trip earlier in the summer, I was delighted to uncover another good read - a book of poetry by Minnesota poet, Larry Christianson. “Beyond Time: Poems from North of the Tension Line” was released in 2008, but makes an ideal companion for any northwoods wilderness trek.

Christianson’s unique poetic structure gives the impression of the trickling train of thought experienced while sitting before a campfire or paddling across a placid lake. His poems describe moments many of us can relate to – the surprise of a morning moose encounter, the ease of a downriver canoe trip or the coziness of a rainy night camping beneath

a stand of cedars. Each poem is accompanied by a brief line of description that tells when and where the poem came from, an addition that succeeds in drawing the reader into the world that Christianson creates. The simple

and down-to-earth voice of Christianson’s work can captivate even the most reluctant of poetry readers.

So many of us in this region take deep pride in the treasures of our natural lanscape,and we are fortunate to have area artists and writers who take it upon themselves to weave the beauty that surrounds us into their work. Kay’s and Christianson’s books are excellent reminders that, for those of us lucky enough to live in this unique place at the top of the

map, an escape from life’s complications into our natural wonders (and the superb local literature that describes them) is always close at hand.

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