Petoskey Pants

I approach novels that are set in the North Country with some trepidation because the North Country is my homeland and so often books about it fall short in some way. When I say the North Country, I mean the yooperland and the Northern Lower, that is, not Alaska or Baffin Island or whatever.

I won’t dis any authors by name for a few reasons. For one thing I am not a book reviewer, just a baggy old kayak woman in the midst of jump-starting a reading habit after a few years of hiatus. Also, I have an idea that writing a novel is no easy task and I hate to put down someone else’s hard work. Finally, different strokes for different folks. For example, I could not stand Gone Girl and I am not interested in 50 Shades of Gray but if someone else enjoys them, I say go for it!

I have read some pretty bad books about my homeland. One was about a thinly disguised version of the town of Grand Marais, up on Lake Superior. All of the characters were the same if that makes any sense. Another was by a famous and critically-acclaimed author who had roots in the yooperland. I could not stand his books. The characters and the yooperland culture didn’t “ring true” to me and can I just say Arrogance? In spades.

I read “Sweetgirl” in a day. I could not put it down. It is set in “Cutler” and the surrounding area. Friends, Cutler is Petoskey. The author grew up there. Petoskey is in the Northern Lower, not in the yooperland, but it has been on my beat as often as possible since when I was a teenager and made shopping expotitions down there with The Comm and Radical Betty in the summer. Sak’s Fifth Avenue? Yes, at least there used to be one. I once bought a deeply discounted sweater there and wore it to death. I don’t know Petoskey as well as I know Sault Ste. Siberia but reading this book, I knew where I was, and whenever the Old Cement Plant was mentioned, I gave The Commander a little high five wherever she is, remembering when she expressed support for saving it. Alas, it was torn down and the land became “luxury” waterside condos for rich folks from “downstate” or Chicago or wherever.

At first, I was a weeeee bit annoyed that the author didn’t simply call Petoskey by its real name. But then I had a little moment of clarity, remembering that Cutler’s is a high-end kitchen store in Petoskey. I’m not sure if there’s a connection there or not but I laughed out loud anyway. If the author was making an inside joke, I got it!

It didn’t take me long to decide I loved this book. It portrays the underbelly of life in a beautiful northern lakeside town that caters to rich folks from “downstate” and Chicago. The characters and their lifestyles can be a bit hard to take, meth addicts living in squalor against the backdrop of a huge blizzard. Nevertheless, they felt real to me, right down to the imperfect grammar I grew up hearing in my hometown 90 miles to the north. Folks like that do exist and struggle in the beautiful Great White North alongside the Petoskey Pants Gals, which is what The Comm and Radical Betty called the rich women in white slacks that were a fixture in the gaslight shopping district during summers in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Summers of Love.

One Response to “Petoskey Pants”

  1. Margaret Says:

    I hated Gone Girl as well! Who are those authors of whom you speak? I might know of them.