Art Beat: Tin Camp Road
Ellen Airgood co-manages a diner in Grand Marais, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, with her husband Rick. She serves in multiple roles as waitress, pastry chef, and bouncer. Between and around all that, Airgood writes.
She has published three novels: South of Superior, a Michigan Notable Book Award winner, and two acclaimed books for middle-grade readers: Prairie Evers and The Education of Ivy Blake. Airgood’s new novel is called Tin Camp Road (Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House, 2021).
People Magazine recently chose Tin Camp Road as one of its “Best New Books,” calling it a mother-daughter love story. "Faced with eviction and scrambling to make ends meet, Laurel Hill can barely keep herself and her precocious ten-year-old daughter afloat in the tiny Michigan town they call home. Laurel brims with fierce love for her daughter, but as their options narrow, will that be enough? Moving and brave.”
“Laurel is a hardworking single mom,” Airgood says. “She chops firewood, ends up helping out at a bed and breakfast, and she’s trying to do her very best by her daughter Skye. Mother and daughter are looking for a home. Laurel is a dreamer, and she has really big aspirations for her daughter, not in terms of outward success but that she be super-creative and capable and confident, and that she has all the best that life has to offer.”
Airgood says she spent seven years writing Tin Camp Road, immersing herself fully in its characters.
“Characters over time come to feel like real spirits, and very, very slowly, they take over their own stories,” Airgood says. “It took me a long time to get to know Laurel. She’s not easy to get to know. But once I did, I tried to completely immerse myself in her experience, and it’s scary. It’s emotional. I try to let myself feel what she would be feeling, and so it takes a lot out of you. I really want the reader to connect emotionally to her quandary and whatever will happen to her and Skye.”
A free virtual event will take place online on Sunday, September 19, at 2 p.m., with Ellen Airgood in conversation with Kalamazoo author Bonnie Jo Campbell to talk about Tin Camp Road. The virtual event is sponsored by Bookbug/this is a bookstore. Registration is required.
Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.