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Welcome to Replica Dodge

Natalie Ruth Joyntonillustrated by Emily Joynton

Award Winner

Jewish Studies, Michigan, Memoir, Creative Nonfiction

Made in Michigan Writers Series

Published: March 2019
ISBN: 9780814345573
Pages: 390 Size: 5.5 x 8.5
Illustrations: 16 b&w illus.
Published: March 2019
ISBN: 9780814345580
Pages: 390 Size: EPUB
Illustrations: 16 b&w illus.

Not long after stumbling into Mason County, Natalie Ruth Joynton finds herself the owner of four acres, a big red barn, and a white farmhouse set among the picturesque rolling hills of Northern Michigan. But there’s a catch. Right in her front lawn stands a life-size tribute to the Old West—specifically, Dodge City, Kansas. Replica Dodge boasts a one-room schoolhouse, a general store, a bank, a saloon, a bunkhouse, a jail, and a church. Who built Replica Dodge and why? What was this person hoping to do or attract? And what’s stranger: a person who builds such a spectacle or the people who buy it?

Welcome to Replica Dodge follows Joynton, a newly converted Jew with strong city roots, as she begins a new life with her fiancé in Michigan’s Bible Belt. The irony of the situation is not lost on her. Jews are notorious city-dwellers. Even secular Jews tend to stay within urban Jewish communities. And yet, here she is: almost a hundred miles from the closest synagogue and marrying—despite the guidance of several rabbis—a partner outside the Jewish faith. Can that faith (and marriage) survive roadkill and rifle season and Replica Dodge?

As Joynton toils to build her own version of home in the heartland, she begins to discover that rural America is not one thing. It is many stories, and as varied as her experiences and hopes are, so too are those of her neighbors. Welcome to Replica Dodge suggests that we move slowly through the new spaces in our lives—removing tape and Bubble Wrap, working with your partner to find a place for that weird chair, and wiping away the cobwebs to start fresh. Anybody who has ever felt like they didn’t belong will take comfort in this enchanting memoir.

Natalie Ruth Joynton’s work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Michigan Quarterly, and Poetry International. She is the recipient of the 2010 Scholl/Thompson Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets as well as a Quintilian Excellence in Teaching Award from Purdue University, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing. Natalie lives, writes, and teaches in rural Michigan.

Authentic, fresh, pragmatic and profound, this gem of a memoir knits a vivid sense of place with a deeply spiritual journey. Book clubs will find a bright, witty voice, a pitch-perfect story, and fertile ground for discussion. I look forward to hearing more from this talented author.

– Joni Rodgers, New York Times bestselling author of Bald in the Land of Big Hair

Like the best nonfiction, Welcome to Replica Dodge is about many things — place and displacement, house and home, idealism and identity, religious conversion and self-reliance — and the elements all combine to create an evocative, thoughtful, wonderfully entertaining memoir that I can’t recommend highly enough.

– Porter Shreve, author of The End of the Book

Natalie Ruth Joynton has written a page-turning delight—funny, tender, and smart. Joynton discovers Jewishness, romance, family history, a remote corner of Michigan, and her own future, and most remarkably she makes you feel that you’re with her every step of the way. This book is a joy, both poignant and vital.

– David Mikics, author of Bellow's People

Welcome to Replica Dodge is more than a memoir, it’s an homage to place and finding your position in it. Joynton takes us through her journey of making a home in the wilds of Michigan, and offers us intimacy with place, and making peace with the past. In her honest, openhearted prose, Joynton examines her conversion and life as a Jew in the Midwest, and with her powers of observation and compassion, she in turn, gives us a new pioneer narrative. This is a book about making a home in the most unexpected places. How Joynton subverts the stranger in a strange land narrative is remarkable. Joynton’s compassion and warmth is on every page, as she recounts her inventive spirit in rural America. A smart and insightful debut.

– Nina McConigley, author of Cowboys and East Indians, winner of the PEN Open Book Award

Joynton immerses us in a landscape that she didn’t expect but has grown to love and in doing so gives us a beautiful memoir about place and identity and how deeply connected the two are.

– Beth (Bich Minh) Nguyen, author of Stealing Buddha’s Dinner

This lack of a cultural base and her efforts to honor her new faith animate Welcome to Replica Dodge, and make it a deeply moving book.

– Keith Taylor, Ann Arbor Observer

In the end, "Welcome to Replica Dodge" is about the search for our place in the world and of the human need for community – and our ability to create it.

– Manistee News Advocate

This well-crafted memoir . . . ranges from chuckle-worthy to heartwarming, warranting an 'I've been there' thought or two in the spirit of true Michigander camaraderie.

– Julie Bonner Williams, Michigan Blue Magazine

Anybody who has ever felt like they didn’t belong will take comfort in this enchanting memoir.

– Jewish Book World

  • 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Award - Result: Finalist in the Memoir category