TOM LAKE… Cherry Time in Traverse City

If you’re a fan of author Ann Patchett and you happen to live in Michigan, you’ll enjoy the backdrop in “Tom Lake,” Patchett’s newest novel that is currently #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list. It’s 1980-something, and young Lara is riding high as an aspiring actress in L.A. whose adventure leads her to the leading role of Emily in the play, “Our Town,” being presented in a summer stock theatre on Tom Lake, a small vacation resort located just a short drive from Traverse City. Lara quickly falls for her leading man, who we later learn went on to become a huge Hollywood star.

Ann Patchett discussing “Tom Lake” in Ann Arbor, Michigan

“Tom Lake” bounces back and forth as the now mature Lara, currently living in Traverse City on the grounds of a cherry orchard, tells her story to her three daughters who are grappling with their own lives. While the modern-day storytelling gives a glimpse into what became of Lara and her friends from that summer long ago, the true story in this novel takes place at Tom Lake.

Readers beware: “Tom Lake” is a love letter to the 1938 three-act play, “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder, and knowing the story of Emily in “Our Town” is almost mandatory, for Patchett delights in drawing parallels between the two. If you’ve never read or seen “Our Town,” you can watch the 2003 Broadway production starring Paul Newman on YouTube at

“Tom Lake” is a slow build, and like “Our Town,” it’s all about the Third Act.

Women Talking. Not that one, the other one…

If you had Cable TV anytime during the last twenty years, you no doubt came across Double Jeopardy, a movie that seemed to be playing on as many channels as Pretty Woman. This smart thriller starred Ashley Judd as a woman trying to stay one step ahead of her parole officer, played by Tommy Lee Jones. Not surprisingly, the movie role put Judd on the A List in Hollywood. She followed up with a couple of other movies roles and…


Turns out, Judd didn’t suddenly fall out favor with movie audiences, she fell out favor with Harvey Weinstein, powerful movie mogul and rapist. In what was apparently the worst-kept secret in Hollywood, Weinstein assaulted a multitude of women, from assistants to famous actresses, with over 80 women coming forward after the New York Times broke the story of Weinstein’s criminal activities. With help from a few brave women, including Ashley Judd, Weinstein is now serving a 23-year sentence in prison.

Ashley Judd’s career came to a standstill because she refused Weinstein’s advances. Many others were too scared, young or unable to say, “No.” Ironically (or not), the film detailing the New York Time’s exposé on Weinstein, She Said has been snubbed by every film awards organization, maybe hitting a little too close to home. You can rent She Said now on Amazon Prime for $5.99.

If you think the “Me Too” movement was an overreaction, please educate yourself by revisiting this moment in time when women spoke up and were finally heard. She Said should be required reading or viewing in every high school.        

              REVIEW – THE MOTHER-IN-LAW

It appears I have a “type” when it comes to fiction, so when my sister handed me a book she had just finished, with her recommendation that included the words, “…dysfunctional family,” I knew I had to read it. The Mother-in-Law by bestselling author, Sally Hepworth, examines the dynamics of daughter / mother-in-law by providing viewpoints from the two main characters. The dual narrative allows us to see just how perspective is everything, and how the same story traveled down different paths can lead to entirely different outcomes. Part mystery, part character-study, The Mother-in-Law is captivating, biting, and oh, so relatable. Give it a read and perhaps it’ll have you looking at your own mother-in-law differently. Or maybe not…

Heidi McCrary is a writer and author of the novel, Chasing North Star – available at Kazoo Books, This is a Bookstore, and online wherever books are sold. Follow Heidi at and

Did you shield your child on that fateful day in September?

This past week, a school in Tennessee removed the graphic novel MAUS from its library due to inappropriate curse words and a depiction of a naked character. Keep in mind that this book uses illustrated mice and cats to tell the story of THE HOLOCAUST. That’s right, the parents in this school district are less concerned about the murder of 6 million Jewish people than the possibility that little Timmy might learn a new swear word that I’m sure he’s never heard before in the car.

Whether it’s MAUS or TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, another book that has seen its share of censorship, it’s nothing new that parents are so afraid that their children might feel some discomfort while learning about a world beyond their gaggle of friends on social media.    

Reading can and should challenge us. It’s OK to occasionally feel uncomfortable with a story that stretches our belief or an opinion we don’t share or understand. It’s called LEARNING. Fortunately, because of the news coverage on the book banning, MAUS is now reaching more readers than the author ever dreamed of.

MAUS reminds us that we can’t forget to teach our children of the horrific ramifications of racism and hate. On September 11, 2001, my children witnessed on news reports what I told them would be a defining moment in their lives. That evening, as a family, we watched the tragedy unfold in real-time on TV. While some parents shielded their young children from the horrors of that day, I believe my boys needed to see what humans are capable of doing to one another.

A documentary aired soon after on CBS, produced by filmmakers who just happened to be following firefighters on that fateful day. CBS made the right decision to air the special without editing out the gruesome scenes and the natural cursing by the firefighters. My husband and I could have decided that this special was too violent for young children and would make our kids uncomfortable. But isn’t that the point?    

Thank you, Tennessee parent, for opening our eyes to the importance of MAUS and all those other books that make our children think.

Heidi McCrary is a writer and Author. Her novel, CHASING NORTH STAR is available at Kazoo Books, This is a Bookstore, and online wherever books are sold. Follow Heidi at and