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'Trailer Park Rules' explores tales of poverty in a fictional but familiar Illinois small town

Michelle Teheux is author of the new novel, Trailer Park Rules.
Tim Shelley
Michelle Teheux is author of the new novel, Trailer Park Rules.

Everyone ended up living in the Loire Mobile Home Park for a different reason. But when the owner puts it up for sale, everyone goes through big changes.

That's the central theme behind Trailer Park Rules, a new book from former Pekin Daily Times editor Michelle Teheux. She's written other genre books under various pen names, but this is the first one she's willing to put her real name on.

"This is a book I'm super proud of. This is the book I was meant to write. And I think anybody who reads it is going to enjoy it," she said.

Like some other Illinois communities, Loire (pronounced like "Laurie") uses a decidedly unfaithful prononciation of the original French place name.

Each chapter focuses on a different character in the trailer park. Jonesy is a low-paid, hardworking reporter struggling to make ends meet. The Jacksons were forced to drop out of college after Janiece got pregnant and had premature twins with medical issues. Darren is a middle-aged former laborer unable to work due to his debilitating back issues.

Teheux said many people live in their own bubbles, and don't often interact with those outside them. As a journalist, she said meeting everyone from the unhoused to U.S. senators gave her a unique perspective.

"I also realized that a lot of people are poor for different reasons. But a lot of our policies are based upon the idea that the poor people are just lazy or stupid, or there's something wrong with them. And I'm trying to get the idea across that people are poor for all kinds of different ways," she said.

Teheux said the book also puts a spotlight on the issue of large corporations buying up small mobile home parks.

"They just start milking it and they jack up the rate the lot rent. And a lot of people end up losing trailers that they actually own because they can't afford the new lot rent," she said.

The shift affects everyone. Some end up better off, some worse. One story ends tragically, Teheux said.

But despite some darker tones, Teheux said the book is still meant to be entertaining. One reviewer describes the novel as both "often funny" and "poignant." But it's underpinned by challenging the assumptions some may make about poverty.

"None of us knows what's going to happen. You can lose your job. You can be in an auto accident. Anything can happen," Teheux said. "Just because you're comfortable now doesn't mean you always will be. That's something for all of us to keep in mind, I think."

Trailer Park Rules is available in paperback at Barnes & Noble and Relics, among other places. An eBook comes out June 1. The book is also available on Amazon.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.