Bourke’s Bookshelf: ‘A path that leads in two directions’

This week's featured read is "Angle of Declination" by Deerwood couple Doug and Sally Mayfield.

Angle of Declination
"Angle of Declination" is the first novel by Deerwood couple Doug and Sally Mayfield.
Tim Speier / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — One of the reasons I have a desire to read as much as I can is because I love learning new things.

Theresa Bourke headshot

With every book I read, I hope to glean some little bit of knowledge that might make me understand the world a little better, come in useful during a future conversation or be just the tidbit of information I need for that first-place win at brewery trivia.

Doug and Sally Mayfield’s book “Angle of Declination” fits the bill well. The title itself was a lesson, as I learned the angle of declination refers to the difference between magnetic north (where a compass typically points) and true north. A compass needle points to magnetic north, leading us in what we think is the direction we want to go, when true north might be somewhere else entirely.

Our lives can be that way, too, I’ve learned. We might interpret a specific event one way and draw a certain conclusion without realizing there’s another perspective to consider. If something as simple and straightforward as a compass needle pointing north can lead us astray, certainly our initial perceptions can as well.

‘Angle of Declination’ by Doug and Sally Mayfield

Published in 2012, “Angle of Declination” is the first novel by husband-wife writing duo Doug and Sally Mayfield, who live in Deerwood.


Described as about 75% autobiographical, the novel tells the story of Allie and Mike Bowman as they meet in Chicago in the early 1970s, fall in love and endure an unpredictable and totally unexpected first year of marriage.

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When an acquaintance of Mike’s asks the couple how they would feel about running a fishing camp in remote Ontario, Canada for a season, their combined spontaneity and love for the outdoors makes the decision and easy one. Allie grew up in upstate New York, duck hunting with her grandpa and uncle and affectionately referring to herself as a river rat. Spending a few months admiring the Canadian wilderness sounds like a dream. While America’s attention was focused on the Vietnam War and President Richard Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate Scandal, Mike and Ally had their own little slice of heaven and only a radio phone and the occasional newspaper to connect them to lives across the border.

But just like a compass doesn’t necessarily point to true north, the Kettle Falls fishing club wasn’t quite the paradise they had anticipated. Nothing could have prepared Allie for the harsh truths she’s about to learn — about herself, her Vietnam veteran husband and the way the world works.

There were quite a few scenes in which I became so invested that I could hardly believe how many pages I’d read before snapping back to reality. There was a new, dramatic conflict just around every corner to keep interest piqued, not to mention Allie’s ever-present internal struggle as she attempted to figure out the trajectory of her life.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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