Wednesday, November 9, 2016

North of the Tension Line and The Audacity of Goats by J. F. Riordan

Image result for north of the tension line bookOkay, I admit it.  Sometimes I listen to talk radio, especially when in the car.  This is partly because my husband is a news junkie and it has sort rubbed off on me.  But listening to Charlie Sykes on WTMJ a few weeks ago actually led to a productive, entertaining end.  Charlie mentioned an editorial piece that was going to run in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that shed a positive light on small towns (imagine that) and that the piece had been written by his wife.  Well, I never did see that opinion piece (but plan to search for it), but I did learn that his wife is a published novelist whose books are set in small town Wisconsin -- Door County's Washington Island.  I searched out the books, finding NORTH OF THE TENSION LINE as an ebook through Wisconsin Public Library Consortium https://wplc.overdrive.com/ and the second title THE AUDACITY OF GOATS through the Winnefox Library System http://www.winnefox.org/catalog.html.

Both books feature the same cast of characters, centered around Fiona, a research writer, who following a dare, decides to purchase a dilapidated house on remote Washington Island and live there for at least a year.  In that time she makes friends with several island residents including Pali the ferry captain who is also an aspiring poet, but her presence is met with skepticism by some residents and outright fury by her next door neighbor Stella.  When her friend Roger, a quirky Door County coffee shop owner, gifts Fiona with a loud, obnoxious goat named Robert, Stella is determined to run both the animal and its owner off the island.  The story that begins in NORTH OF THE TENSION LINE continues in THE AUDACITY OF GOATS, although the second book could be read alone without too much trouble.
Image result for audacity of goats
Despite Stella's outrageous, open disdain for Fiona, these two books tell wonderful stories of finding one's place among your loved ones, your neighbors, and within yourself.  The allure of island living is balanced with the realities and isolation that it brings.  If you actually know someone who lives in Door County, you will know that the people there pride themselves on their individuality, their ability to withstand hardship,their tradtions, and their unique home on Wisconsin's landscape.  Riordan has captured all of that, although some of her characters might be a bit "tongue in cheek". She also handles the almost unnoticeable "creeping in" of the outside world through Roger's decision to buy an expensive, complicated Italian coffee maker and then his secret entry into the world of yoga to get closer to his feminine side to please his new wife.

I always like finding a new Wisconsin author, and I hope Riordan continues to make our special state the setting for future works.  I just found Riordan's blog and am happy to report that there is a third book coming featuring Washington Island.

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