You've all heard of Bonnie Jo Campbell then? No, me neither until the middle of last year when a passing reference on Goodreads piqued my curiosity. A bit of web browsing later and I was the happy owner of the following two books..........Q Road and American Salvage, one a novel and the other short stories.
So far she has published 2 collections of stories and 2 novels. Unusually for me, I will hold off from buying all her books until I have at least read one or possibly both of her books and cleared down some of the ranks of the unread mountain.
A lush and rowdy collection of stories set in a rural Michigan landscape, where wildlife, jobs, and ways of life are vanishing. New from award-winning Michigan writer Bonnie Jo Campbell, "American Salvage" is rich with local color and peopled with rural characters who love and hate extravagantly. They know how to fix cars and washing machines, how to shoot and clean game, and how to cook up methamphetamine, but they have not figured out how to prosper in the twenty-first century. Through the complex inner lives of working-class characters, Campbell illustrates the desperation of post-industrial America, where wildlife, jobs, and whole ways of life go extinct and the people have no choice but to live off what is left behind. The harsh Michigan winter is the backdrop for many of the tales, which are at turns sad, brutal, and oddly funny. One man prepares for the end of the world - scheduled for midnight December 31, 1999 - in a pole barn with chickens and survival manuals. An excruciating burn causes a man to transcend his racist and sexist world view. Another must decide what to do about his meth-addicted wife, who is shooting up on the other side of the bathroom door. A teen aged sharpshooter must devise a revenge that will make her feel whole again. Though her characters are vulnerable, confused, and sometimes angry, they are also resolute. Campbell follows them as they rebuild their lives, continue to hope and dream, and love in the face of loneliness. Fellow Michiganders, fans of short fiction, and general readers will enjoy this poignant and affecting collection of tales.
Welcome to Q Road, in Greenland Township, where the old way of life is colliding with the new. On the same acres where farmers once displaced Potawatomi Indians, suburban developers now supplant farmers and Q Road (or "Queer Road," as the locals call it) has become home to an unlikely mix of people. The neighbors include a sixth-generation farmer and his rifle-toting child bride, an evangelical bartender, a tabloid-reading agoraphobe, a philandering window salesman, and an asthmatic boy who longs for the love of a good father. These folks all smell the pig manure from the Whitby farm and share the same grand views of the Kalamazoo River and the oldest barn in the township--until one disastrous October afternoon.
Bonnie Jo Campbell's first novel combines offbeat humor, eccentric characters, and unique insights into modern rural America, where family traditions have flown the coop and only the cycle of the seasons remains. At the heart of this tale are three characters so integrally connected and devoted to the Harland farm that they might not survive anywhere else; their lives, their livelihoods, and their sometimes violent love for one another are all rooted in the soil of this square mile.
I'm hoping to read one of these books and tick the Michigan box on my US State Reading Challenge this year. Probably not crime fiction, but a couple of good looking books nonetheless.