Book review: A View of the Lake


For every 100 people who dream of leaving the big city (or the big suburbs) behind and moving to the North Shore, one or two people actually do it. That ratio has brought enough people to populate the North Shore with quite a cast of characters who have chosen to make this rough land their home.

In A View of the Lake, Beryl Singleton Bissell chronicles the leap of faith she and her husband Bill took in 1999 when they landed in quiet Schroeder, Minnesota, surprised owners of a run-down home they bought only for the view of Lake Superior.

Beryl and Bill immersed themselves in the community right away. I first met them when they were about four years into their new North Shore lives and Beryl was already busy and respected. In this book, Beryl shares how their community connections gradually unfolded.

Contemplating this transition into the North Shore community, Beryl writes, “What was it, I wondered, that brought a sense of belonging to place? … Was it something we can make happen, or was it more tenuous, a gift?”

Belonging to the North Shore comes to them through neighborly interactions at the Schroeder Post Office, repeated hikes on their closest stretch of the Superior Hiking Trail, quiet writing retreats and epic adventures. I have a bit part in the book myself, as the guy who led them out onto the ice of Lake Superior.

If you’ve ever considered making a move like this, to the North Shore or Montana or Manhattan, this book is an important read. It reminded me of Rick Bass’ Winter: Notes from Montana. In fact, Bissell’s book would be strengthened with more of the chronological, narrative style of Bass’ Winter. Bissell’s short chapters are easy to read, but they keep the reader distant from the truly interesting underlying storylines.

The couple’s move to the North Shore became complete when they purchased a family grave plot at the Schroeder cemetery (for the resident price of four dollars). It was final evidence of their determination “to make this our home ’till death do us part.” The North Shore and its fans are better off now with these new “locals.”


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