Leelanau Fall reads: a rundown of local new books in 2023

From staff reports

We chatted with the experts, the bookworms, and bookstore owners, and here’s our roundup of local books, or books written by local authors, that were published in 2023. Find them at Leelanau County’s locally-owned, independent bookstores: Cottage Book Shop in Glen Arbor, Bay Books in Suttons Bay, Dog Ears Books in Northport, and Leelanau Books in Leland; or at your local library. Happy reading!


Viola Shipman’s Famous in a Small Town (Graydon House)

Wade Rouse, aka “Viola Shipman”

Wade Rouse, the international bestselling author who writes under the penname of his late grandmother, Viola Shipman, experienced Cherry Republic the way many tourists in Glen Arbor do. After eating lunch and enjoying a glass of wine at a nearby restaurant, he walked down Lake Street and found himself nibbling on chocolate samples at Cherry Republic’s retail store.

Curious about the cherry pit spitting area facing Glen Arbor’s park and captivated by the playful joy he felt in the crowds visiting that day, Rouse walked to the Cottage Book Shop to sign copies and later Googled the history of Cherry Republic and founder Bob Sutherland’s family. He learned about the lore that Mary Sutherland, the matriarch of the family who passed away in January at age 92, still holds the record for pit spitting distance. Rouse read further and learned that Mary was a teacher, a feminist, an author, and a champion for gender equality, and he thought about his own mother, a hospice nurse, and his grandmother, Viola, who never finished high school and worked as a seamstress.

Mary’s story, and her role in Glen Arbor, inspired “Viola Shipman’s” latest book Famous in a Small Town, which has received accolades as one of the Best Summer Books of 2023 by the Good Morning America TV show, Reader’s Digest and Katie Couric Media.


Robert Underhill’s One Cold Coffee: A Leelanau Mystery (Delicti Press)

Five old friends breakfast together each morning. When a member of the group with unusually regular habits fails to show up without any prior mention of a change of plans, the group undertakes it’s own investigation when the sheriff fails to take the absence seriously.

Underhill is a psychiatrist/psychoanalyst. He practiced in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, for 33 years, while also Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Wayne State University School of Medicine and on the faculty of the Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute. He was also the driving force behind the Beyond the Bay series of foreign movies shown at Suttons Bay’s Bay Theater

Dave Dempsey’s The Great Lakes: Fact or Fake? (Mission Point Press)

Everybody who looks at the Great Lakes knows they’re big, but why are they Great? From sea serpents to sunken ships, from lonely lighthouses to fish on Prozac, this book engages the reader in a quest to find what’s beneath the surface.

Dave Dempsey is the author of 12 books on the environment and other topics. He has worked in environmental policy for the Governor of Michigan, the International Joint Commission and various nonprofit organizations since 1982. A graduate of Michigan State University, Dave lives in Traverse City, and serves as a policy advisor for FLOW, the Great Lakes law and policy center.


Marshall Thornton’s Help Wanted (Kenmore Books)

In local author Marshall Thornton’s sixth Pinx Video Mystery, it’s January 1994 and Noah is thrilled that it’s been months and months since he’s been involved in a murder… but then, the boys learn that Javier O’Shea (tall, dark and LAPD) has been arrested for theft of evidence. As the bodies pile up, they learn that Javier may, or may not, have run afoul of rogue cops at the notoriously corrupt Rampart Station. But what does all this have to do with a major earthquake, a poorly maintained Nissan Sentra, and Leon’s mysterious past?


Peggy Creten’s Opal Otter Chooses Courage (Mission Point Press)

A couple of students in the lunchroom at Glen Lake Forest School make fun of Opal Otter as she is enjoying her perch sandwich. The teasing gets worse during the day, and later, on the bus ride home, no one will share a seat with her. Even with the support of her best friend, Opal feels left out and is hurt by the teasing. Opal Otter Chooses Courage is the second in the Peggy Perch series. This series addresses common concerns that children face in school. It should also inspire discussions between parents, teachers, and children on how to solve problems by sharing feelings. The setting for the Peggy Perch books is Glen Lake.


John Wemlinger’s The Road to Empire (Mission Point Press)

Unable to forget the horrors of 9/11 or the Iraq war that killed his friends, aviation science student Jack Rigley enrolls in Western Michigan University’s Army Reserve Officer Training Corps. As Jack’s college graduation nears, he and his fiancée, Annie Miller, find themselves headed to Fort Rucker, Alabama, where he will learn to fly helicopters. This career move, however, does not sit well with Danny Miller, Annie’s father, whose older brother was killed in Vietnam flying helicopters.

In spite of his objections, Jack and Annie choose the military and face the trials of military life: family separations caused by long deployments to dangerous combat zones, relocations to meet the needs of the service, deaths of loved ones, and the tug of heartstrings firmly rooted where each grew up, in Empire, Michigan. Ultimately, Jack will be forced to make a difficult choice: family or career, the very same choice America’s truest heroes must make every day while serving our country.


Katharine Crawford Robey and Tracy Mikowski’s Tor and Raver are Friends (Mission Point Press)

In Tor & Raven Are Friends, Tor, a King shepherd, finds a Petoskey stone on the beach at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. He hopes that the rare stone will bring him a friend. Meanwhile in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, Raven, too, finds a remarkable stone, a heart-shaped rock, right in the middle of the print of a bear paw. That night a great West Wind arises and blows Raven all the way across the country. She lands on Tor’s chimney and falls inside his cabin. Tor and Raven don’t know what to make of each other. But Raven can’t help but be curious about the big white dog. Tor is kind and loving to Raven in spite of his initial reluctance. The two unlikely friends bond during a summer full of outings, including a visit to Fishtown, hiking, and building a sand castle. But Raven gets homesick for Alaska and together the friends figure out a way back. Before Raven soars away, the two friends exchange their special stones and Raven promises to return the next summer. The unlikely real-life friendship of Raven and Tor is revealed in the afterword, which includes photos of the raven and shepherd dog playing together along with pictures of the unique stones that inspired this story.


Nancy Bordine’s What Do You See?: Developing New Perspectives with Quilt Patterns (Mission Point Press)

What Do You See? Developing New Perspectives with Quilt Patterns by Suttons Bay’s “quilt lady” Nancy Bordine, is a colorful picture book featuring a diverse group of children interacting with inspirations for traditional quilt patterns. The children represent a wide range of heritages and abilities in the hope that every child who sees this book will be able to see themselves within an aspect of at least one child in the book. The book includes adult-led learning activities that give children concrete concepts to connect with for developing empathy, diversity appreciation, critical-thinking skills, creativity, and inclusion strategies. It also includes fun biographies and colorful finger puppets of each child in the book. The book contains scannable digital links to more learning activities related to learning fractions.


Anne-Marie Oomen’s The Long Fields: Essays (Cornerstone Press)

Empire author Anne-Marie Oomen’s sixth essay collection, The Long Fields, celebrates rural life as she experienced it growing up on a farm and then into an adulthood marked by both wandering and homing. The three parts cover three phases of the author’s life: moments of early farm life in “Childhood’s Lamplight,” building her own home (complete with Estwing hammer) in “The Heart of Place,” and finally “Kuieren” (Dutch for “amble”), which delves into the wide swath of daily life. These three parts build a world that offers the vitality of living country. At its heart, The Long Fields voices the best of Midwestern rural living: a relationship to land, stewarding a place, and honoring the sacred quotidian.


The Drums of War: An Autobiography by T.C. Corbett (Mission Point Press)

World War One is replete with stories about war hero pilots who fought overseas. But little has been told of the 11,000 Americans who trained to fly and never made it “over there.” Training itself was dangerous; one cadet died for every eighteen pilots who earned their wings. And many more were injured, suffering both physical and psychological effects that, in many cases, lasted a lifetime. In The Drums of War, former pilot and newspaperman T.C. “Cy” Corbett—who worked for the Chicago Tribune before retiring to Northern Michigan—relates his experience of 100 years ago through original flight journals, diaries, and reflections written decades later. He describes a struggle to move his name up the list of pilots awaiting overseas orders. And finally, on November 11, 1918 while en route to his scheduled deployment, he awoke to shouts and celebrating in the streets. The Armistice had been declared. The war was suddenly over. Cy Corbett had relished the excitement and adrenalin rush and danger of early flight. His return home to a mundane civilian life was challenging, filled with confusion, disarray, lost love, death, depression, and finally, near the end, a small ray of hope for the future.


Ann Patchett’s Tom Lake (Harper)

In the spring of 2020, Lara’s three daughters return to the family’s orchard in Northern Michigan. While picking cherries, they beg their mother to tell them the story of Peter Duke, a famous actor with whom she shared both a stage and a romance years before at a theater company called Tom Lake. As Lara recalls the past, her daughters examine their own lives and relationship with their mother, and are forced to reconsider the world and everything they thought they knew.

Tom Lake is a meditation on youthful love, married love, and the lives parents have led before their children were born. Both hopeful and elegiac, it explores what it means to be happy even when the world is falling apart. As in all of her novels, Ann Patchett combines compelling narrative artistry with piercing insights into family dynamics. The result is a rich and luminous story, told with profound intelligence and emotional subtlety, that demonstrates once again why she is one of the most revered and acclaimed literary talents working today.


Jack Driscoll’s Twenty Stories (Pushcart Press)

Winner of Pushcart’s Editors Book Award, Twenty Stories is cause for a grand celebration. Few short story writers have received the acclaim offered to Interlochen author Jack Driscoll over the decades. Here he has selected twenty of his best fictions including the classics “Prowlers” and “That Story” both winners of The Pushcart Prize.