Stuck in Manistique, by Dennis Cuesta
Publication: Celestial Eyes Press; October 29, 2018
About the book:
Near the midpoint of the Upper Peninsula, along a Lake Michigan bend of the shore, is the town of Manistique, Michigan. Mark had never heard of Manistique before the death of his estranged aunt, but as the 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 from 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?
So, I’ve spent the majority of my day reading this novel and even after several hours invested, I’m still not sure what I think of it. I was immediately attracted to the title and the blurb, eager to read something different and quirky – which I did. Mark inherits his aunt’s house in the upper peninsula town of Manistique at the same time a recent medical school grad, Emily, is traveling to the area for a secret rendezvous with her lover. Upon arrival at his aunt’s home, Mark realizes that her home is, in fact, a bed and breakfast once Emily arrives asking for a room. After a car collision with a deer, Emily has nowhere to stay, arrives on Mark’s doorstep with an eye patch, and the rest, they say is history. Not a romantic, happily-ever-after history, but this sets into motion a series of odd encounters and events as people continue to show up at the bed and breakfast.
Considering that this is Cuesta’s debut novel, I have nothing but praise for his writing. He beautifully imagined a variety of characters that were all so different from one another despite being their being brought together by the B & B. Each had such unique personalities and stories that it was difficult to understand, yet wonderful, how each of these people came to know one another. I loved the randomness of the people and their interactions and especially loved the easy and funny banter that quickly developed between Mark and Emily. I admit that I initially felt that there would be a romantic connection, but you will have to read for yourself to find out if that’s true!
There were numerous twists and turns throughout the novel, but some of the biggest revelations and connections came from Mark’s deceased aunt Vivian’s books and letters left behind, which added a special twist element of the past and present coming together. Coincidences or moments guided by fate were plentiful and just added to the already enjoyable, quirky novel that it was.
O.k., so what did I not like? Again, I can’t exactly put my finger on it. But the first thing that comes to mind is that I tend to prefer novels with more solid and meaningful endings. I knew almost as little at the end of the novel as I did at the beginning regarding where Mark and Emily would go next with their lives, careers, relationships, etc. Call me dramatic, but I think I need some big resolution at the end of the novel to find it truly fulfilling. The other thing is, despite Cuesta’s completely oddball, entertaining, and funny characterization, I was still left with a bit of longing as if I never truly got to know the characters. I was given a glimpse, then given more, yet never truly got to the nitty-gritty of who they were.
Wrapping this one up, it’s a brilliant debut novel with its creative plot, unique setting, and the realistic, yet odd cast of characters. Personally, I needed a little something more overall, but this is a good read for fans of general/literary fiction that don’t need all the fireworks and such in the end.
*Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest review.