Stuck in Manistique by Dennis Cuesta Release Date: October 29, 2018 Publisher: Celestial Eyes Press Stand Alone Novel Number of pages: 335 Kindle Edition Source: ARC from Net Galley Contemporary Fiction Rating: PG-13 Read 10/20/18 to 10/21/18
Near the midpoint of the Upper Peninsula, along a Lake Michigan bend of shore, is the town of Manistique, Michigan. Mark had never heard of Manistique before the death of his estranged aunt, but as sole beneficiary of Vivian’s estate, he travels there to settle her affairs. As Mark tours his aunt’s house for the first time, the doorbell rings.
Days after graduating medical school, Dr. Emily Davis drives north, struggling with her illicit rendezvous on Mackinac Island. She never makes it—on the highway near Manistique, her car collides with a deer, shattering the car’s windshield. Stranded for the night, Emily is directed to a nearby bed and breakfast.
Maybe it’s a heady reaction, the revelation that his aunt, an international aid doctor, ran a bed and breakfast in retirement. Or perhaps he plainly feels pity for the young, helpless doctor. Regardless, Mark decides to play host for one night, telling Emily that he’s merely stepping in temporarily while his aunt is away.
As a one-night stay turns into another and more guests arrive, the ersatz innkeeper steadily loses control of his story. And though Emily opens up to Mark, she has trouble explaining the middle-aged man who unexpectedly arrives at the doorstep looking for her.
Will these two strangers, holding on to unraveling secrets, remain in town long enough to discover the connection between them?
Another new-to-me author. I’ll be completely transparent and let you know that the only reason I requested this book from Net Galley is the title. I’m a native Michigander so I just couldn’t pass up a book about such an obscure small town in the Upper Peninsula that only Michigan residents ever hear about. I was a bit bummed to discover that the author doesn’t live here himself. But being an alum of the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and having lived here at some point, he had a lot of the vernacular and idiosyncrasies down pat.
This story was an extremely slow-starter for me. I haven’t been able to determine if that’s because, like I said, I’m from Michigan so a lot of the narrative had to do with explaining the area the protagonist was driving through. I enjoyed recognizing some of the sites, but it seemed too much to me.
Once things get rolling at the bed and breakfast, zany-ness ensues. I would in no way categorize this book as comedy or slap-stick, but it definitely had some of those elements and was filled with humor. For me, that is what made this story so interesting. As Mark tries to keep track of who he told what, and Emily hides her own secrets, I found myself pulled deeper and deeper into their lives. Once Emily and Mark actually sort of team up to protect those around them and to continue to keep their secrets, it was just a lot of fun.
There were also some extremely serious issues that were dealt with in this story. The transitions from humor to drama were effortless and felt natural. I love the “will they or won’t they” aspect of the relationship between Mark and Emily. The author wrote their chemistry perfectly for the relationship they truly had by the end and, I believe, were meant to have.
I’m impressed this is Dennis Cuesta’s debut novel. There is some wordiness at times throughout the narrative, but he wrote the relationships between Mark, Emily, George, and all the other crazy residents of Manistique so perfectly.
**I received an ARC of this book courtesy of Net Galley and the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own and given freely.**