Bourke's Bookshelf: From New York City to New York Mills, Minnesota

This week's Nonfiction November feature is "Hundred Miles to Nowhere" by local author Elisa Korenne.

Hundred Miles to Nowhere
This week's Nonfiction November feature is "Hundred Miles to Nowhere," a 2017 memoir by local author Elisa Korenne.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch
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Moving to a new place is hard. Whether it’s for school, a job or to be with the person you love, transitioning to a new environment comes with challenges.

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I’m speaking as someone who has moved around the Midwest a couple times. I went from a small farm town in Wisconsin to the capital of Minnesota for college and then to rural north-central Minnesota to begin my career as a journalist. While each change came with its own hardships, culture shock wasn’t one of them — unless you count seeing more purple and yellow football paraphernalia than green and gold.

I’m not sure how well I would have handled uprooting my entire life and moving across the country to a place where everyday life is completely different than what I’m used to. But that’s what Elisa Korenne did when she decided to abandon her urban life in New York City in favor of a quiet, slower-paced existence in New York Mills, Minnesota, with the man she fell in love with.

Now a resident of the Brainerd lakes area, Korenne details the move in her 2017 memoir “Hundred Miles to Nowhere.”

‘Hundred Miles to Nowhere: An Unlikely Love Story’ by Elisa Korenne

When singer-songwriter Elisa Korenne got accepted into an artist-in-residence program at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center in rural Minnesota in 2006, she had no idea just how much it would impact her life.


Her life in the Big Apple was full of museum visits, theatrical performances, ethnic cuisine and gigs at a variety of venues, where she showed off her musical talents. Excited to get a taste of the outdoors with a month-long visit to Minnesota, Korenne researched activities like canoe camping before packing up her guitars and other belongings and hitting the road.

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A contact at the cultural center connected her with a man named Chris Klein, who was said to be the perfect person to take her on a canoe camping trip through the Minnesota wilderness. But when something sparks between the two, Korenne promises herself she won’t do anything about it because she can’t possibly have anything in common with a flannel-wearing fisherman from Minnesota. And she’s leaving soon anyway, so what’s the point?

It turns out she can’t tamp down those feelings very long, though, and before she knows it, she finds herself in a long-distance relationship. When it comes time for one of them to move, it just makes more sense for Korenne to come to Minnesota, where Chris is already established in his family’s insurance firm.

So Korenne makes the jump from New York City, population 8 million, to New York Mills, population 1,100.

The transition is anything but easy, as Korenne navigates life as a city girl in rural America, a performer in a town with one restaurant, and a Jewish person in a land of Catholics and Lutherans where the nearest synagogue is an hour and a half away.

But as time goes on, the sparkling lakes, serene countryside and laidback lifestyle of Minnesota become more familiar than the loud, busy streets of New York that Korenne used to love. As she falls more and more in love with the man who brought her here, so too does she learn to love his friends, his family and his small-town home.

Through her poetic prose, Korenne does a fantastic job of painting a vivid picture of her surroundings at every point in the book. She begins each chapter with lyrics from one of her songs, setting the scene for the next part of the story and giving readers another glimpse of her artistry.

I love being able to see Minnesota and the slow-paced, rural lifestyle to which I’ve always been accustomed through someone else’s eyes, and Korenne’s memoir is a fantastic way to do just that.


Coming up next

Don’t miss next month’s Bourke’s Bookshelf columns, full of Christmas tales, perfect for the month of December.

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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