Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ray's Reviews: Bootstrapper by Michigan author Mardi Jo Link


Mardi Jo Link will be signing books on Wednesday at 7 PM at Schuler Books, 
Meridian Mall, 1982 W. Grand River, Okemos.


"Bootstrapper" by Mardi Jo Link (Knopf, $24.95) is subtitled "From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm."

It's an enjoyable, intriguing memoir from a strong-willed, contemporary woman about raising her three sons and their struggle for survival. 

Told in a realistic, down-to-earth style, Link recalls a variety of her family's challenging lifestyle experiences in Northern Michigan in 2005-2006.

This could easily have been turned into a depressing memoir about all the things that went wrong in her life. Instead it's a fascinating look at her family's ability to persevere and use assorted, often creative innovations to succeed. 

It opens with her reflections upon her upcoming divorce from her husband of over 19 years (dubbed sarcastically as "Mr. Wonderful").

Divorce court looms, there's a large amount of debt; she wants to hang on to the century-old farmhouse near Grand Traverse Bay that's been in her family for generations.

Raising three energetic kids with little money is no easy task either. Her economic hardship is eased a bit by unusual circumstances, such as winning a zucchini-growing contest, which gives her a year's supply of local bread. 

She and her sons raise a hog, then run into problems when it reaches 220 pounds. She suffers through intense illness and has to deal with massive area snowfalls. 

There are other catastrophes that can't be overcome, including heartfelt emotional loss and frustrations when usually reliable resources fail.

In an effort to deal with an aggravating school official, she must learn to swallow her pride. She continues to seek a fitting church that her family will want to attend. 

They decide to raise chickens, but this too has hilarious and sometimes unexpected sad consequences. Link's memoir is full of scenes of self-discovery and growth, even though she doesn't always like what she sees.

This is a change of pace for Link, the author of two true crime volumes and the winner of a Michigan Notable Book Award.

"Bootstrapper" has a well-deserved praise on the book's rear dustjacket from Garrison Keillor, Wade Rouse and Jon Pineda.

It's great summer reading for those who enjoy entertaining escapism; it's ideal as well for local libraries.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, 
has reviewed Michigan books and crime novels regularly since 1987.

Find this and other books by great Michigan authors
at the Curious Book Shop, an independent 
book shop in East Lansing, founded in 1969.

Curious Book Shop
307 East Grand River Avenue
East Lansing, Michigan
This review was published by the Lansing State Journal on June 23, 2013.

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