Lake Michigan in 1936 is an essential commercial seaway, one that captains and their crews must cross regularly no matter the season, breaking massive ice floes under the prows of their ships and praying that they survive the fierce swells and changeable winds that have left a legacy of ghost ships and wrecks. Into this world comes five-year-old Fern Halvorsen, daughter of the captain of the Manitou, with a small suitcase and her teddy bear. Fern’s mother is consumed with grief after the loss of another child, and her father fears for his daughter’s welfare.
To Fern, the Manitou is a magical place where she can roam largely unsupervised with her new friend Alv. She gets into every corner of the ship, becomes a pet of the crew, and even adopts a stray kitten she finds in the hold. But the winter of 1936 on Lake Michigan is more brutal even than most, and the consequences of that journey and the secret Fern carries away from it haunt her for the rest of her life.
With an ear for crisp dialogue, an unflinching focus on character, and a remarkable instinct for spare but telling detail, Lee Zacharias, creates in Across the Great Lake (University of Wisconsin Press, 2018), an unforgettable tale about the child inside every adult and the long-term effects of the choices we make.
C. P. Lesley is the author of eight novels, including Legends of the Five Directions (The Golden Lynx, The Winged Horse, The Swan Princess, The Vermilion Bird, and The Shattered Drum), a historical fiction series set in 1530s Russia, during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible. Find out more about her at http://www.cplesley.com.