Danielle Sosin has written the first great novel about Lake Superior—and its many ghosts
Danielle Sosin doesn’t look particularly shaken by the drive this morning from her home in Duluth to Grand Café in Minneapolis, despite a snowy squall. “The weathermen just like to scare us,” she says, like a true Duluthian. Unlike a true Duluthian, she grew up here in south Minneapolis. Her parents are Georgette Sosin, the French-born painter and Minneapolis gallery owner, and the late Henry Sosin, a surgeon and potter. The family vacationed on the North Shore when Danielle was young, and even then she was drawn to Lake Superior. “It was my first ocean,” she says poetically of its vastness. “So haunting, so mysterious, so powerful—there’s this weird juju about it.” Surely, she thought, it harbored sea monsters, submarines, even, perhaps, Jacques Cousteau.
In 2003, she returned to the lake to research her debut novel, The Long-Shining Waters (Milkweed, $24), which comes out this month. She’d already written a book of short stories (“Unexpected moments of beauty and clarity,” pronounced the New York Times), and Lake Superior offered a novel-sized canvas. She moved into a loft in Duluth with a lake view, went herring fishing with locals, and talked to scientists about the strange phenomena beneath the waves. She figured she’d stay a year. She even kept waitressing at Goodfellow’s in Minneapolis, driving down for several-day stints.
But the lake pulled Sosin in. She bought a house and became absorbed in her characters, three women living near the lake over several centuries: Grey Rabbit, an Ojibwe mother; Berit, a Norwegian immigrant; and Nora, a former bar owner road-tripping to nowhere in particular. The narratives overlap like waves on the shore.
Her dedication paid off: The book has earned Sosin a profile in Publishers Weekly in addition to her own publisher’s honor, the Milkweed National Fiction Prize. But she has no intention of abandoning the lake now. “To have it in your daily life puts things in perspective,” she says. “There’s something out there bigger than you.”
5 THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT DANIELLE
1. She moved to Duluth from a St. Paul warehouse—“not a legal living situation.”
2. She met her mentor, novelist Patricia Weaver Francisco, at the Loft Literary Center.
3. Her part-time day jobs are in daycare and landscaping, designing residential gardens.
4. She sped through Carleton College in three years, and has a master’s in psychology.
5. She lives in Duluth on quiet Goat Hill: “Even many Duluthians don’t know about it.”