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Isadore's Secret

Sin, Murder, and Confession in a Northern Michigan Town

Mardi Link

Publication Year: 2010

"In Isadore's Secret, Mardi Link shines a journalist's lamp on this dark, quiet corner of Michigan's history, assuring that the tragic story of Sister Janina is not forgotten. Link's telling is fascinating and thorough, making a story you will not soon forget." ---Steve Lehto, author of Death's Door A gripping account of the mysterious 1907 disappearance of a young nun in a northern Michigan town and the national controversy that followed when she turned up dead and buried in the basement of her own church. Swinging planks of lantern light shine through the musty air and onto the dirt floor of the church basement. The oddly glowing rectangles syncopate over the damp ground and illuminate even the darkest, stooped-down corners of the space beyond. The only sound is the ragged breathing of two men, a young parish priest and a much older laborer. Aboveground these men belong completely to this place, in both body and soul. A glimpse of their faces anywhere in the sanctuary, the rectory, the school, the barn, or the gardens would be a welcome sight. But here below, these men of Isadore are interlopers. Only trespassers would sneak silently into the church's sloped underbelly without witness to carry out such a sinful and secret errand as this one. Despite their tools, and their lantern, and their resolve, neither is equipped for the task at hand or for what is to come. Mardi Link, a former crime reporter, was named Antioch's Betty Crumrine Scholar for Creative Nonfiction in 2007. Her first book, When Evil Came to Good Hart, also published by the University of Michigan Press, spent four months on the Heartland Indie Bestseller List. This true story was the basis for the Broadway play The Runner Stumbles and the film of the same name. Front cover: Photograph of cemetery © John L. Russell, Great Lakes Images; image of face ©iStockphoto.com/duncan1890.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page and Copyright

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pp. 2-9

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pp. ix-x

first, here’s to the pack rats. To the researchers, collectors, history buffs, hoarders, genealogists, and trash-pickers who think enough of their paper loot to pass it on. They are the primary sources of the pieces of this story that I uncovered at the University of Notre Dame archives, Archives of Michigan,...


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pp. xi-13

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Author’s Note

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pp. xiii-xv

a number of normally unrelated factors worked together quite effectively to isolate Isadore, Michigan, from the outside world at the turn of the previous century. Geography was the first of these. We Michiganders love to hold up our right ...

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Prologue: A Grave

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pp. 1-3

swinging planks of lantern light shine through the musty air and onto the dirt floor of the church basement. The oddly glowing rectangles syncopate over the damp ground and illuminate even the darkest, stooped-down corners of the space beyond. The shapes are out of place on this bright autumn afternoon. Outside, it is still daylight. Only...

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Lost Soul

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pp. 4-59

the three sisters stood shoulder to shoulder on the porch of the outof- the-way church and waved good-bye. Despite the midday heat, they were each covered from their shoulders to their ankles in the heavy brown wool favored by their Felician Order. A black veil trimmed in white encased their heads, hiding their hair and flowing past their elbows. The only visible flesh was the skin of their plain faces and the palms of their waving hands...

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pp. 60-92

an ungodly and burdensome prediction ushered in Isadore’s new priest. On May 15, 1917, in a simple ceremony, Father Edward Podlaszewski was installed as the new parish priest at Holy Rosary Church. He was 31. Though short in height and slight in stature, Father Edward’s plans for the parish were mighty. He was the church’s third resident priest, the second man to lead the parish...

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pp. 110-121

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The Sinners

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pp. 93-123

on an icy morning in late february 1919, Father Edward stood outside the train station and wept. Tears dripped down his cold cheeks, and he made no attempt to disguise his grief. He was ruined. “Don’t blame the girl,” Father Edward told the small group of stillloyal parishioners, all women, who had assembled to see him off. “It’s not her fault. I truly loved her. All the...

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pp. 124-151

howard campbell knew he had a long day ahead of him, but he could have had no way of knowing just how little he’d accomplish by nightfall. The middle-aged attorney got into his car early on the morning of May 8 and started out on his trip from Manistee to Leland. His law practice was here in Manistee, where he maintained an office, with all of his important papers and...

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The Trial

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pp. 152-216

“not guilty.” As scheduled, on the afternoon of July 29, the defendant was brought inside the Leland courthouse and made to stand in front of Judge Mayne. There was not an inch of shoulder space in the gallery. Farmers, farm wives, shopkeepers, and community leaders were squeezed in together with nuns,...

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Epilogue: Forgiven

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pp. 217-234

the children of holy rosary church, almost a hundred in all, braved the cold and came to call at the rectory at the appointed hour. The door opened, and their priests and his holy visitors came outside and joined the gathering of their youngest charges. Together, they formed a magnificent procession; girls...

Cast of Characters

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pp. 235-240

Sources and Resources

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pp. 241-252

E-ISBN-13: 9780472026562
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472050796

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 646068698
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Isadore's Secret

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Murder -- Michigan -- Isadore.
  • Convents -- Michigan -- Isadore.
  • Isadore (Mich.) -- History.
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