They were but children when in 1947 the Soviet Union named the United States as 'the main enemy.’
Spirit Falls is the first novel in Townsend's The Long War series. It is an affecting story of childhood friendship growing into profound love, a coming-of-age novel set in the empty and hardscrabble landscape of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
The Korean War rages. Marie Jeanne Charbonneau, a French-Canadian, and Ricky Belisle, Serbian and Scots-Irish, befriend one another at the one-room Spirit Falls Graded School on Michigan’s isolated Upper Peninsula, and grow up together wandering the forests, lakes and swamps. As the novel opens, they are in the tenth grade, when children in these isolated rural communities either quit, or moved elsewhere to complete their education. On the eve of the longest night of the year, a stranger appears bringing with her new influences and a longing for the wider world. A Lake Superior storm brings the two teenagers face-to-face with death and the knowledge of good and evil which drives them from Eden into the world. The Long War is about America’s late twentieth century wars and the lives of four children from childhood innocence, their growth into momentary key players in blundering and bloody struggles of their titan twentieth century empires into which they were born.
Richard Belisle and his childhood friend, French-Canadian Marie Jeanne Charbonneau, cross paths and swords with Danton Larionov and Ekaterina Soroka, who once had also been children. They trust and betray, give faith and deceive, become fast friends and bitter enemies, each striving to live within a moral code in a 20th century world of contrived and real ambiguity.