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Fred Carlisle
The Lake Effect: A Lake Michigan Mosaic
“I stood ankle deep in Lake Michigan for the first time when I was two years old,” Fred Carlisle writes. His fascination with the lake began then and has continued throughout his life.  " The Lake Effect" is grounded in the author’s personal experiences but moves to wider considerations that include the aesthetic, emotional, historic, economic, and social effects of Lake Michigan.   The book captures the lake’s mesmerizing beauty in summer and winter. It also examines the way Lake Michigan sustains the economies and societies of every place along its shores. It speaks of the ways human intervention and carelessness have polluted, damaged, and degraded the lake.   The book also describes the lake’s power—in both water and ice forms—to drown swimmers, wreck ships, destroy beaches, and consume houses.   "The Lake Effect" explores as well the functions and power of water broadly. Water can be magical and make us healthier, happier, and more peaceful. It can also be an adversary that damages and destroys. Water is equally a comfort and a threat: a mosaic of multiplicity and contradiction.
“I remain transfixed by Lake Michigan, and like one of Melville’s people, I seek water and the lake,” Carlisle writes in this slim compact, compelling book of essays, a love letter to one of the greatest of the Great Lakes. The author spotlights his memories of and love for Lake Michigan—it’s “captivating presence and emotional force”—while exploring wider perspectives and themes that include the aesthetic, psychic, historic, economic, social, and cultural effects of the lake, plus some theoretical concerns like water in general or the challenges of representing, in words or visual art, ”the many faces of the lake and water.” Fond recollections of twentieth-century Lake Michigan dominate, viewed at times through a nostalgic lens, touched with Carlisle’s family history, though Carlisle also offers a clear-eyed look at shipping, tourism, agriculture, conservation efforts, and more.

Carlisle’s affinity for this iconic body of water shines through on every page. However, The Lake Effect plunges darker depths, too. Carlisle addresses the unpredictability and capricious whims of Mother Nature, even in a lake “compromised and ‘controlled’” by humanity, particularly the fatal sinking of the SS Carl D. Bradley in 1958. Aquatic Armageddon is also explored thoroughly, with Carlisle examining in fascinating depth invasive species like lampreys, zebra mussels, Quagga mussels, Asian carp, and goby fish and their catastrophic effects on the Great Lakes. Lately, changes in climate have eroded dunes, intensified weather, and ushered in a “new normal” in changes of water level, with some disastrous results, like houses crashing into the lake.

Meticulous research, source notations, and first-hand accounts of travels around the massive lake back up his opinions and musings, and black-and-white illustrations and photos provide welcome visuals ranging from a lamprey’s maw to “the most beautiful day” Carlisle and family ever spent at the lake. Evocative prose and a willingness to face the complex and ambiguous will engage readers fascinated by America’s waterways while enriching their understanding, appreciation, and concern for the future.

Takeaway: This in-depth love letter to Lake Michigan will captivate readers with a passion for the Great Lakes.

Great for fans of: Jerry Dennis’s The Living Great Lakes, Dana Thomas Bowen’s Memories of the Lakes.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A