Prayers at Maple Tree Medows

Prayers at Maple Tree Medows
Three Rivers, MI

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Q-ueen of Barn Stories -- Q Road by Bonnie Jo Campbell

Q Road is the novel to read for rich layers barn stories in southwest Michigan-- stories that I have previously not heard. What a wonderful read!

Bonnie Jo Campbell's 2002 novel is narrative archeology of the land and gardeners and farmers of Kalamazoo area where Campbell grew up and now lives. Potawatomi tales and the centennial barn's secrets speak as the stories of farmer's failing livelihoods leak from stalwart hearts and twisted loves.

This is pure treasure for Story Barn. As I have photographed beams of equally old barns, I have never heard that suggestion that Potawatomi people may have helped raise these timbers, as Campbell suggests. Their exodus in 1840 and the mounds they leave behind frame the story with shadows I have always wanted to see.

Here is a summary:

Greenland Township, Michigan: On the same acres where farmers once displaced Potawatomi Indians, suburban developers now supplant farmers and prefab homes spring up in last year's cornfields. All along Q Road -- or "Queer Road," as the locals call it -- the old, rural life collides weirdly with the new.

With a cast of lovingly rendered eccentrics and a powerful sense of place, Q Road is a lively tale of nature and human desire that alters the landscape of contemporary fiction.

As I re-enter the Story Barn project I hope to find ways to connect with Campbell. She was awarded the National Book Award for Once Upon a River, set also in Kalamazoo area.

Read Q Road. Let me know what you hear.