Grand Ledge, a small town in central Michigan, is unassuming. Visitors today may know it as the city that hosts the annual Island Art Fair or Mudge’s Follies variety show, a quaint place with an antiquated main street and several parks lining the Grand River.
Long ago, Grand Ledge was a tourist destination with a vibrant resort and a variety of attractions. None – or at least very little – of that remains. The city of today is also the city of my childhood, a town trapped in unchanging time.
Bridge Street is the main street of Grand Ledge, the north/south route that leads across the Grand River. I remember the current bridge being built when I was a child. During construction, we crossed the river on a temporary wooden bridge that terrifyingly swayed as we drove across.
The Grand Ledge Public Library
Back in the time before the internet, the library was the only place to find books or information. The décor is nearly identical to when I was a child, and they still have the same collections that I frequented in high school.
The Sun Theater
The Sun is a reprieve from modern cinemas. It offers recent runs of films for a few dollars and is a place where you can still get a popcorn, soda (or “pop” as we call it), AND candy for under $5. There are single restrooms and a single screen. Despite its small size, the theater is romantic and nostalgic, the place where I saw nearly every film from Jurassic Park to Gladiator and where I first experienced love and independence and the creative stirrings that led to my life as a writer.
The Ledge Path
This path spans from the island to Fitzgerald Park, which was a former spiritualist campground in the late nineteenth century. When I was in elementary school, we walked this path yearly and heard oral histories about buried treasure and plagues brought by European settlers and myths of the islands’ creation. The path has been somewhat neglected since my childhood and is difficult to navigate in parts, but it is still beautiful.
Sandstone Creek branches off from the south side of the Grand River and was once part of the appeal of Grand Ledge, popular with picnicking tourists. When I was a child, I caught crayfish in its waters and once found a petosky stone, which is the state stone of Michigan. The creek is rather desolate today and unknown by many visitors and locals.
Across the river from Sandstone Creek, Oak Park boasts some of the most popular rock climbing cliffs in Michigan. It also contains many fabulous pieces of nineteenth and early twentieth century graffiti, including an intricate carving of a mermaid and my grandmother’s name, Arleta, immortalized by a former lover. There is a carved spiral as well, which is part of how I tied this town to my imaginary world in Cauldron’s Bubble.
Lincoln Brick Park
In addition to tourism, Grand Ledge was once a town of industry. It was home to a clayworks plant, a chair factory, and a brick factory. Lincoln Brick Park houses the ruins of the brickmakers, as well as a quarry that became a swimming hole after workers struck a spring. When I was a child, I searched for fossils along the quarry’s banks.
Oakwood Cemetery sits atop a hill on the far north side of Grand Ledge. I used to play saxophone in band concerts here during Memorial Day ceremonies. This is the cemetery where Alda’s grandmother is fictionally buried, and it is known that bodies of those who died in winter – before modern gravediggingequipment was used – had to be stored in mausoleums until the ground thawed.
The Second Island is the only one of the seven islands that is accessible today. It is actually a combination of two islands, tied together with a jetty where a rollercoaster once spanned the gap between. The gazebo stands on the site of Mudge’s Hotel, a circular tower that was planned to have a whirligig on top, until its foundation was damaged by a flood. Apart from that hotel’s foundation, no other evidence of the original resort remains on the island.
Amber Elby will be hosting her book launch for Double Double Toul in Austin, Texas at Malvern Books on October 14 at 2:00 p.m. She will also be at the Mid-Cities Teen Book Fest at North Richland Hills Library in Texas on October 20 from 11:00 to 5:00!
Six months after the events of Cauldron’s Bubble, Alda is stranded in her remote cottage, unable to recreate the magical object that allows her to travel between time and place. Meanwhile, Dreng’s home with Miranda on a distant island begins to crumble. They both escape to Fairy Land, where they become embroiled in a battle of immortals as the clans of Queen Titania and King Oberon fight for supremacy. In order to evade capture and return to their worlds, Dreng must rely on his adversary, Caliban, while Alda discovers an ally in the mysterious Ophelia. In a realm where only humans can die, will Alda and Dreng save themselves and, more importantly, each other? Or will they succumb to the fantastical powers in play?
Double Double Toil continues to build on the world introducedin Cauldron’s Bubble by intertwining Shakespeare’s plays in a unique and exciting way, introducing their stories to new readers and established Bard fans alike. Elements and characters from Hamlet, Macbeth, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello, and Romeo and Juliet combine in this fast-paced tale of magic and adventure. Read on…