Breathing Lake Superior

Ron Rindo

 A novel steeped in the air and water and people of the rural Midwest

Overcome with grief following the death of his youngest child, Cal Franklin uproots his wife and teenaged children to a ramshackle subsistence farm in far northern Wisconsin. Withdrawn and estranged from all they know, JJ and her stepbrother, John, struggle to adapt to life off the grid and to Cal’s increasingly erratic behavior. Without electricity or even running water, the family suffers a series of calamities until Cal feels a call to preach. He builds a small log church on the property, and his unconventional message soon attracts a following. When elderly locals profess to be healed by the touch of Cal’s hands, word spreads, and desperate people descend on the church from across the country. Though overwhelmed and doubtful of his powers, in a final act of love and faith, Cal seeks to raise his young son from the dead. 

Narrated by Cal’s stepson, John—named for “the chronicler of Christ’s miracles”—Breathing Lake Superior is a poignant exploration of the mystic borderland where the mental strain of overwhelming grief becomes entangled with the promise and hope of ecstatic faith. 


Praise for Breathing Lake Superior

“In Ron Rindo’s gripping novel Breathing Lake Superior, a grieving man goes on a troubled religious odyssey. . . . Amid wondrous descriptions of rural, seasonal beauty, the novel Breathing Lake Superior examines moments of intimacy, love, and humor against a formidable biblical background.”

—Meg Nola, Foreword Reviews (September / October 2022)

“Ronald Rindo’s novel marks a very welcome addition to Wisconsin literature. Everything is here that you could want, love, loss, faith, doubt, joy, despair, plus the miracles of a faith healer—all set in an area of the state Rindo knows well.”

—Anthony Bukoski, author of The Blondes of Wisconsin

“How is it that this novel’s sister and brother are so profoundly understood that though I have no brother, I have this brother, this mother and father, this church, this farmhouse, this winter, these woods, these delights, these trials and these redemptions? We turn the pages of Breathing Lake Superior thrilled and suspended, and come away from them steeped in story, owned by rare wisdom. If there really is a Thin Place, where the earth gives way to its own mysticism, then to read Ron Rindo is to open a door that will lead you to it.”

—Abby Frucht, author of Are You Mine?

“Set against the unforgiving backdrop of northern Wisconsin, Breathing Lake Superior explores the extraordinary depths of grief, love, and the astonishing power of magical thinking. Debut author Ron Rindo expertly narrates the stunning transformation of a Midwestern father into a self-proclaimed messiah through the eyes of his teen stepson, John. A new literary voice that exquisitely augments the Midwestern fiction genre.”

—Eldonna Edwards, award-winning author of This I Know

Breathing Lake Superior [is] a gripping, tightly written 252-page narrative of a family’s loss of a beloved child, subsequent grief, and effort to come to terms with that loss and grief. . . . it is also a meditation on the power of religion and the will to believe and how the human mind can take that power and exercise that will until both become toxic and tragic. . . . In short, this is a marvelous debut novel, although ‘debut’ belies the considerable experience Rindo has accrued in telling good stories. And at this point in his career, it appears the longer form of the novel suits him well.”

—Roberta S. Maguire, Oshkosh Examiner

Breathing Lake Superior is a masterpiece of dramatic tension about the destruction and resurrection of a family. . . . a timely story, full of vivid imagery and unforgettable characters—a tragedy in a beautiful landscape. . . . Evocative, poetic description captures human emotion and landscape throughout the novel.”

—Ruth Latta, Compulsive Reader

Praise for Ron Rindo

"Gloriously inventive work from a master of the form."

Kirkus Reviews (Love in an Expanding Universe)

"Those who appreciate the work of Charles Baxter, Michael Chabon, or even John Cheever will find excellent companionship in Love in an Expanding Universe. In these eight remarkable stories, one encounters characters who struggle as we do, facing the awful uncertainty of love in a universe perpetually shifting, flying outward, forever spinning away."

Blackbird Archive (Love in an Expanding Universe)

"Rindo has a knack for describing the absurd details that give lives meaning. Freakish, darkly comic, and utterly contemporary."

Kirkus Reviews (For Secrets Men Keep)

“Despite its title, the men in Mr. Rindo’s book are not intentionally keeping secrets, nor are they at all unfeeling. Their emotions are simply beyond words.”

New York Times Book Review (For Secrets Men Keep)

"A strong debut which more often than not takes a familiar suburban scenario and makes clear how mysterious and frightening 'everydayness' can be."

Kirkus Reviews (Suburban Metaphysics and Other Stories)

About the Author

A native of Wisconsin, Ron Rindo is the author of three short story collections, including Love in an Expanding Universe, which won the Minnesota Voices Prize for short fiction. His short stories and essays have also appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The Best American Essays. He is a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh, and he lives with his wife, Jenna, and an assortment of animals on five acres in the country, where they raised a blended family of five children. Breathing Lake Superior is his first novel.

Listen: Ron Rindo on the Larry Meiller Show Book Club

Read: Author interview with University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

Read: Author interview with Roberta S. Maguire at the Oshkosh Examiner