author: Paul Diamond; Maria Buhr Grimes (poetry)
genre: adult fiction, historical fiction
publish: April 4, 2017 by Cedar Forge Press
purchase: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Born at the turn of the twentieth century in Glen Arbor, near the dunes of Northern Michigan, young Belle is the first child of a gruff stove-works boss and a crippled mother who weaned Belle on the verse of Emily Dickinson. When a natural disaster results in her mother's death and nearly takes the life of her younger brother Pip, Belle creates a fierce, almost ecstatic farewell song. Thus begins her journey to compose a perfect Goodbye to Mama.
At 21, Belle ventures south to Ann Arbor for university, with teenaged Pip in tow. There, she befriends Robert Frost, Ted Roethke and Wystan Auden and finds that her poetry stands alongside theirs, and even with that of her hero, Dickinson. Her lyrics capture the sounds, sights, and rhythms of the changing seasons in the northern forests, amidst the rolling dunes by the shores of the Great Lake.
Despite the peace she finds, Belle also struggles in both homes. Up north, she battles her father who thinks a woman can't run the family business; and clashes against developers who would scar the natural landscape. In Ann Arbor, she challenges the status quo of academic pedants and chauvinists.
Belle's narrative brings these two places to life in their historic context: a growing Midwestern town driven by a public university, striving for greatness; and a rural peninsula seeking prosperity while preserving its natural heritage. Through the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, World War II, and the Post-War Boom, Belle's story is hard to put down. Her voice and songs will be even harder to forget.
a beautifully written and informative historical fiction
I joined the blog tour of Belle of Two Arbors simply because: (1) I'm IN LOVE with all things historical fiction (you, guys, probably know his by now); (2) it covers a whole lot of events and this means more information for me (yay for that); (3) the combination of novel and poetry highly intrigued me because I was never a poetry reader but ya know, sometimes you just have to go for it (and the curiosity is killing me).
Belle of Two Arbors follows Belle who found her voice in poetry together with well-known poets like Robert Frost. Paul Diamond brings 20th century Michigan to life and touches poetry, family life, and breaking barriers. This is book, though lengthy, tells a story that's left unnoticed by many yet at the same time also covers points that are well-written about such as women's rights and family relationships.
Belle, like many heroines that deals with historical change, is a strong and independent heroine who's more than willing to fight for what she thinks is right. She takes care of her brother, Pip, writes poetry, and fights for her rights. It is so easy to be drawn to her character (and with 600+ pages, it's difficult to not feel for her -- all those things she carries and how she carries them is highly commendable.
I am honestly, not well versed with the history of the US more so on the history of specific states which is why this novel became a insta-read for me because it gives me something new to hold on to. Belle of Two Arbors is set in Michigan and deals with important matters and is strongly written.
OVERALL, Belle of Two Arbors is a historical fiction with a dash of poetry. It deals with family life, breaking barriers, and is packed with historical events that are not widely touched. It was a good yet lengthy read.
about the author
Since birth Paul Dimond has shared his time between Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan, and Glen Arbor amidst Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in northern Michigan.
Prior to researching and writing The Belle of Two Arbors, Paul Dimond served as the Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, tried several major race case that divided the U.S. Supreme Court and served as the Special Assistant to President Clinton for Economic Policy. He has also practiced law, chaired a national real estate firm and continues to spend his time between the two Arbors. He is an alumni of Amherst College and the University of Michigan Law School.