North of the Tension Line

Called a “modern-day Jane Austen,” J.F. Riordan’s lyrical prose and rich characters are a tribute to small town life and the beauty of the ordinary. Peopled with sharply drawn characters whose experiences are by turns serious, mystical, and ridiculous, her books bring into sharp focus the pitfalls and vicious politics that prevail in small towns everywhere.

J.F. Riordan

Before she began writing J.F. Riordan earned her living first as an opera singer, and later as an English teacher in an inner city high school.  A transplanted Midwesterner, she lives in exile from Washington Island with her husband and three dogs.

Peopled with sharply drawn characters whose experiences are by turns serious, mystical, and ridiculous, her books bring into sharp focus the pitfalls and vicious politics that prevail in small towns everywhere.

“J.F. Riordan writes with a seductive immediacy which reveals the extraordinary in the lives of people we too carelessly think ordinary. A Small Earnest Question combines keen social observation, engaging characters, quiet humor, and rich sense of place. Rewarding from first page to last.”   ~  Richard North Patterson

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For Jean

My joy ebbs and flows with the seasons. I have never fully understood spring, with its mud, its dirty snowpiles, its cold rains, and its disappointed hopes. For me, joy comes when fall it is at its peak, and even still later, with the stark, purple cold of winter. Once the leaves and crops are stripped away the sculptural shapes of the trees and the shape of the earth is revealed, and the light pours down, undiffused. The world seems a brighter, clearer, purer place. That cold  clarity purifies me.

Morning Rows

I thought about the rower’s early morning, rising to be on the water before the sun rose, and felt a bit of envy at the pleasures of deep exercise, alone, with the sun just hidden behind the mountains at the east side of the water.  I rise in the dark, too, but depend on hot coffee—although, perhaps, the same combination of joy and willpower—to sit comfortably on a chair, my legs crossed under me, pressing toward my writing deadline. I count words every morning, gauging my progress. Only two months left.

Detox

I had become increasingly aware of the way my phone had taken over my life. I am continually scrolling through my messages. There’s not a scene that passes before my eyes that doesn’t make me reach for the camera. There’s not a drive that isn’t accompanied by a podcast.