Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Survival Mode in Michigan: The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison



The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison is set in the fictional resort town of Port Manitou, on the Jib River feeding into Lake Michigan. Neil Kazanzakis is a popular Physics teacher and running coach. His son is a senior weighing his future, Western Michigan University or culinary arts school. Neil cares for his wife's aging mother, and for his wife who is in a vegetative state after a swiming accident.

Neil has fallen in love with his mother-in-law's nurse, but has not told his son about their relationship, believing he is protecting his son.

When a student You Tube prank video goes viral, Neil faces the loss of his job, his girlfriend, and the love of his son.

I requested this book from NetGalley because it was set in Michigan, and in the kind of small Lake Michigan resort town I have lived in: four hours from Lansing, with a marina. It also had very good reviews from the hardbound publication.

The story is told in Neil's voice. I connected to the character right away. I was impelled to read the last hundred pages, all in one sitting.

The back story of his wife's accident is withheld at the beginning, a great impetus to continue reading. Little by little we learn about Neil and Wendy. Anyone who has dealt with a horrendous loss will recognize Neil's post-accident plummet into despair, depression, self-medication, and withdrawal. His son Chris had lost two parents, and turned to his uncle, a Chicago chief, for support.

As Neil's life falls apart again, he is able to draw on the experience of his choices after his wife's tragedy to find strength to face his new challenges.

The author Jon Harrison was born in Michigan. The book is full of Michigan references, including the Metro Detroit IKEA were we just bought our bookshelves (and even a reference to the Philadelphia IKEA, the first in the US, where we bought furniture for our home in 1980!).

Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date Sept 23, 2014
Paperback $14.95
ISBN 978147785235