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    HomeEntertainmentMichigan author Bonnie Jo Campbell's novel is 'Today' book club pick

    Michigan author Bonnie Jo Campbell’s novel is ‘Today’ book club pick

    The first pick of 2024 for the “Today” show’s Read With Jenna book club is a novel by a Michigan author who lives in Kalamazoo County.

    Bonnie Jo Campbell’s “The Waters” was announced Thursday as the January choice for the nearly 4-year-old club launched by Jenna Bush Hager, who’s the co-host of NBC’s “Today with Hoda & Jenna” hour.

    “This is an incredible novel about exceptional women. … It is so beautiful. It’s about what we inherit,” Bush Hager told co-host Hoda Kotb on Thursday morning.

    “The Waters,” which arrives in bookstores Tuesday, is about a formidable matriarchal figure, Hermine (Herself) Zook, a healer and herbalist in rural Michigan who makes her home on an island in the fictional Great Massasauga Swamp.

    Described by the book’s publisher, W.W. Norton as “as stubborn as her tonics are powerful, “ Herself is the mother of three estranged daughters. She lives with her granddaughter, 11-year-old Dorothy (Donkey) Zook, in a wild landscape that is as much of a character as the women depicted in the novel.

    Read With Jenna has an impressive track record of helping books reach national best-seller lists. This is the first title set in the Michigan countryside chosen by Bush Hager, the daughter of former President George W. Bush.

    With its detailed portrayal of nature and its mystical elements, “The Waters” paints a vivid picture of life in a rural area. The Los Angeles Times said in its review that “‘The Waters’ is a thought-provoking and readable exploration of eccentricity and of all different kinds of love — familial love, romantic love, love of knowledge, love of animals and love of one’s own environment, even when it is a difficult place to live.”

    A graduate of the University of Chicago, Campbell has long received critical acclaim as a writer. Her 2009 short fiction collection “American Salvage,” published by Wayne State University Press, reached the finals of the National Book Award and the National Book Critic’s Circle Award. She also is the winner of the 2009 Eudora Welty Prize and was a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow.

    Her 2011 novel, “Once Upon a River,” was a best-seller.

    Campbell’s own three donkeys got a shoutout from Bush Hager on Thursday. While praising “The Waters” and urging viewers to pre-order the book, Bush Hager said: “This author sent me a video with her donkeys. I love her so much.”

    Contact Detroit Free Press pop culture critic Julie Hinds at jhinds@freepress.com.



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