South of Superior
by Ellen Airgood
A debut novel full of heart, in which love, friendship, and charity teach a young woman to live a bigger life.
When Madeline Stone walks away from her Chicago life and moves 500 miles north to the coast of Lake Superior, in Michiganís Upper Peninsula, she isnít prepared for how much her life will change. Charged with caring for an aging family friend,
Madeline finds herself in the middle of beautiful nowhere with Gladys and Artubus, two octogenarian sisters --- one sharp and stubborn, the other sweeter than sunshine. As she is drawn into the dramas of the small, tight-knit town, Madeline learns that itís a place where times are tough and debts run deep, but where friendship, community, and compassion run deeper.
A debut novel full of heart, South of Superior shows that there is a deep reward in caring for others, that one who is poor in pocket can be rich in so many other ways, and that happiness often comes from the smallest gestures.
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1. Gladys always tells Madeline how much of an outsider she is, how much she doesnít understand the ways of McAllester. By the end of the novel do you think Madeline is a part of the town? In what ways has she let the community of McAllester transform her? In what way has she transformed the community?
2. Throughout the novel, Madeline is looking for a sense of purpose, for something to guide her life. At the end of the novel, do you think sheís found that sense of purpose? What do you think it is? How is it different from what she was expecting when she first came to McAllester?
3. Change is a major theme of the novel, and yet so much of what both Gladys and Madeline love about McAllester is how the town follows an older way of living. What kind of changes happen in the novel? Which character do you think is the most changed by the end?
4. While Madeline and Gladys are deeply stubborn people, Arbutus is more likely to be adaptable. Do you think this makes Arbutus any less strong than the other women? In what ways is she just as stubborn? What do you think Madeline learns from Arbutusís way of getting her own way?
5. Think about the Bensons. Do you think that they are wrong to want to improve their business? What could they have done to be more in keeping with the community? What does Madeline learn that they do not?
6. Values are important to all the characters in the novel. How are Madelineís values different from Gladysís? Paulís? What do you think Randiís values are? The Bensons? Think about yourself. Which character do you feel most similar to?
7. At the start of the novel, Madeline takes an immediate dislike to Randi while Gladys has more patience for her. What do you think Gladys sees that Madeline does not? Think about how Madeline and Randiís relationship changes. How do you think Madelineís increased knowledge both about herself and about her history changes how she feels about Randi?
8. We never get to meet Joe Stone or learn why he gave Madeline away. What do you think his motivations were? Do you think he made the right choice? How did his giving Madeline away make her more like the Stones?
9. Life in McAllester is hard. Why do you think Madeline ultimately chooses it over returning to Chicago? What virtues do you see in it? What qualities would you want to emulate in your own life?
10. The novel ends on a note of anticipation. What do you think will happen to the characters after the book has ended? How do you think what Madeline has learned will help her handle future hardships?
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"South of Superior is a charming story where hardships forge character, friendships endure for decades, and love unfolds in unusual ways. Most of all it is a celebration of the ever-surprising strengths of the human spirit."
Beth Hoffman, New York Times bestselling author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
"An unsentimental but warm-hearted view of life in an isolated Michigan town. Reminiscent of Richard Russo, South of Superior is an engaging tale told with wit and charm."
"A heartfelt ode to the simpler things in life. Youíll be delighted and embraced by the strong willed characters and the small town setting and when youíre finished youíll want to go embrace the people in your own circle."
Tiffany Baker, author of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County
"Once in a great while a debut novel lands on my desk that is of such insight and heart it makes me want to tell everyone I know, ĎYou must read this novel!í The story of Madeline Stoneís journey is peculiarly American, brimming with lessons about compassion and community, tumult and courage, hardship and happiness, and South of Superior is not to be forgotten."
Connie May Fowler, author of Before Women Had Wings