Thursday, September 1, 2022

News of the Air by Jill Stukenberg

News of the Air is Jill Stukenberg’s first novel and it epitomizes the heart and sense of place that often marks fine debut efforts. Winner of the Big Moose Prize, it affords a distinct view of the north woods in a not-so-distant future when ecological disasters force many city dwellers to seek new homes in northern wilderness locations. 

Years after the towers fell on 911, Allie Krane, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs and had been living in the city with her husband Bud, decided that the frequent checkpoints and invasions of their privacy in Chicago weren’t what she wanted for the baby she was carrying. She and her amiable librarian husband bought a rundown resort in Wisconsin’s northern woods not far from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Their baby Cassie was now ready to attend the local school for her senior year after having been homeschooled all her life. Their little town’s grocery and the library where Bud worked when they first arrived had closed and there was little in the way of commerce or government services close to them.

Tourists still stayed in their cabins, but more frequently they welcomed people escaping the devastating effects of climate change and government interventions or those reinventing themselves. Allie and Bud’s relationship seems to be suffering from the landscape and their different views on how to survive and raise their daughter. Cassie herself, a unique and wonderful character, is emerging from the aftermath of a classmate’s suicide and her own concerns about where she belongs. 

Stukenberg is at her best in her depiction of the land and people living there. Who belongs to this place? What does it mean to those who think they’re escaping to it and what does it mean to those who contemplate escaping from it? Multi-dimensional characters encountering a changing world contemplate the meaning of home and family in this novel that explores several intriguing topics.

Summing it Up: Rarely does a novel that examines issues like climate change and greed offer both grist for a book discussion and an escape novel that could be read quickly while overlooking a stream in a Northwoods resort. News of the Air offers a glimpse of the Northwoods of the future that’s eerily realistic and is also a fine character study of marriage and family dynamics. This reader is hoping for a sequel about Cassie as she’s a character readers won’t want to leave behind.

Rating: 4 Stars

Publication Date: September 1, 2022

Category: Fiction, Grandma’s Pot Roast, Book Club

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What Others Are Saying: 

Foreword Reviews: 

Jill Stukenberg writes the rural north as if she was born with one hand on the throttle of an outboard motor and the other taking notes on the back of a beer napkin. In News Of The Air she offers an unknowable, imagined future that is utterly plausible.  –Sarah Stonich, Vacationland

Jill Stukenberg’s News of the Air is an unforgettable novel of our troubled moment. No relationship, private or public, is insulated from the dangers of a collapsing nation drowning, afire, poisoned, profoundly divided. The mother/daughter relationships at the novel’s center capture perfectly the countless ramifications that come from toxic secrets and from ignoring the truth. The many memorable characters here are marked by the intensifying grief and pain of learning to leave: learning to leave behind their limiting romantic notions of home; learning how and when to transcend their “bare loneliness” and to, at last, disappear into a new honest condition of discovery. Reading News of the Air is truly a life-changing experience.  –Kevin McIlvoy, One Kind Favor

The North Woods. Who escapes to it? Who escapes from it? In News of the Air, a novel set in that mystery-filled world, author Jill Stukenberg explores the two questions with a keen eye and a literate pen.  

Stukenberg knows the denizens of The Woods: the owner of the run-down bar; the city exec with a showy cabin and expensive weekend parties; the struggling owner of a small resort. These, as well as the folks who surround them, are tangled in mysteries that only The Woods can weave.  –Faith Sullivan, Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse

News of the Air is a dreamy, mysterious, novel of the Northwoods. A book about regret and loss, love and friendship – all set in and around a familiar Wisconsin lake resort where the visitors and locals comprise a compelling cast of characters. The perfect novel for a hammock or comfortable fireside chair. –Nickolas Butler, Shotgun Lovesongs and Godspeed 

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