One might think of Anthony Bukoski’s Head of the Lakes as a love letter to Superior, Wisconsin. This beautiful and meditative collection of short stories highlights the complexities of the region, showing it as much more than a small-town. Bukoski masterfully threads place into each and every page of his collection— in his stories, Superior, Wisconsin can almost function as a character of its own.
In one of the collection’s standout pieces, “Rain, Fog, A Harbor City,” Superior is described as vividly and lovingly as one might describe an old friend: “On a map, the north and south shores of Lake Superior meet to form what resembles an arrow point. We live at the point of the arrow. This and many other arrows pierce us at the Head of the Lakes.” While it should be noted that not every story in this collection takes place in Superior, Wisconsin, those that do are certainly some of the collection’s most memorable.
The Superior that Bukoski paints in this collection is a place that values family, sports, tradition, and music— and its characters very much reflect that. In one story, a family with two young children invites a Polish sailor to stay in their home; in another, a young man who once had big dreams of a career in baseball reflects on his first love outside of the field; in yet another still, a young man returns to his Superior home after serving time in the Vietnam war. These are real characters with real hopes, desires, and intricacies, and if you’ve ever spent time in Wisconsin’s Northernmost corners, maybe you’ve met them too.—Linnea Guerin