West of the River, North of the Bridge: Stories from Michigan's U.P.


In trying to define Michigan's Upper Peninsula and its people, words like grit, solitude, and resiliency come to mind.  Enjoying brilliant summers and enduring inescapably long winters, the hardy souls who live here have much in common.  Some bend over backwards to make a living, some seek love and adventure, and others simply strive for a way to fit in.

In this collection of short stories, author Richard Hill reflects on issues from personal relationships and family traditions to hoarding and compulsive gambling.  From the wild ideas and rebellion of youth to the regrets and hard-earned wisdom of old age, these stories reflect the experience of living in such a challenging environment.

We follow one recurrent character, Jake Powell, as he deals with the frustrations and disappointments of growing up.  He struggles to accept himself, but in time learns to trust others and the world around him.  Other stories tell about distinct aspects of U.P. culture, from its casinos to its deer camps.  In "Whiteout," an ice fisherman encounters a life-threatening blizzard.  In "Letters from Maria," a deckhand on a Great Lakes freighter tries to hold together a long-distance relationship with a woman he loves.  "Crisp Point" tells of two college women who unexpectedly confront a black bear in the woods and are chased to the supposed safety of a lighthouse.  Overall, Hill presents a cross-section of hopes and fears, courage and cowardice, all set in the rugged but starkly beautiful landscape that is the U.P.