Published by St. Martin's Press on January 21st, 2014
Genres: adult, magical realism
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From the author of New York Times bestseller Garden Spells comes a beautiful, haunting story of old loves and new, and the power of the connections that bind us forever… The first time Eby Pim saw Lost Lake, it was on a picture postcard. Just an old photo and a few words on a small square of heavy stock, but when she saw it, she knew she was seeing her future. That was half a life ago. Now Lost Lake is about to slip into Eby’s past. Her husband George is long passed. Most of her demanding extended family are gone. All that’s left is a once-charming collection of lakeside cabins succumbing to the Southern Georgia heat and damp, and an assortment of faithful misfits drawn back to Lost Lake year after year by their own unspoken dreams and desires. It’s a lot, but not enough to keep Eby from relinquishing Lost Lake to a developer with cash in hand, and calling this her final summer at the lake. Until one last chance at family knocks on her door. Lost Lake is where Kate Pheris spent her last best summer at the age of twelve, before she learned of loneliness, and heartbreak, and loss. Now she’s all too familiar with those things, but she knows about hope too, thanks to her resilient daughter Devin, and her own willingness to start moving forward. Perhaps at Lost Lake her little girl can cling to her own childhood for just a little longer… and maybe Kate herself can rediscover something that slipped through her fingers so long ago. One after another, people find their way to Lost Lake, looking for something that they weren’t sure they needed in the first place: love, closure, a second chance, peace, a mystery solved, a heart mended. Can they find what they need before it’s too late? At once atmospheric and enchanting, Lost Lake shows Sarah Addison Allen at her finest, illuminating the secret longings and the everyday magic that wait to be discovered in the unlikeliest of places.
How long I have waited for a new Sarah Addison Allen book. She’s finally back, and Lost Lake was worth the wait. While I don’t think it was her strongest book to date, it was certainly much more enjoyable than her last, The Peach Keeper, and it made me cry and love the characters, which I feel was the book’s strongest element.
But first things first, I need to talk about the cover. I know everyone seems to like the redo better than the first one, but now that I have read the book, I think the first one fit the story better. I am conflicted. This one is definitely prettier, but which is better? And I wonder how the author feels about the cover change.
You don’t need me to tell you how much I love Sarah Addison Allen’s books. She’s one of the few authors of which I have read ALL her works. I would have made any number of sacrifices for an ARC of this (luckily I didn’t have to), and I pre-ordered a finished copy for my shelf. She’s one of my favorite authors, and the reasons are many. I love her writing, and she always writes passages I want to quote, like:
“But it didn’t,” Eby said. “If we measured life in the things that almost happened, we wouldn’t get anywhere.”
Sitting there, nodding off, Eby wondered if there was a form of mental illness that wasn’t biological but learned. Eby could remember her own mother on a downward spiral after her husband died. And even now, their mother was feeding Marilee’s beautiful grief with outrage of her own that Eby had stayed away so long. They were wounded. They were victims. If only they had everything they’d ever wanted, then they’d be okay. But because they didn’t, it was everyone else’s fault.
Without getting into my personal history, that latter one hits home for me quite a bit. A lot of the family drama did in this book, actually. And maybe that’s why I love her books so much. She really nails the family drama in a realistic way. You would think some of the occurrences in this book would be a bit hard to suspend disbelief for, but not so. There is less magical realism in this one than some of her others, but I do have to say that what there is is incredibly inventive.
The setting was pretty magical, I will say, but my main criticism is that I wish it would have been brought to life more. The focus was on the characters and I loved that, but I feel in previous books the setting was more lively and the writing had more imagery. I couldn’t see it as vividly in my mind as I was hoping I would. And then on top of that, I feel like the book, as good as it was, kind of dragged itself out a bit. It’s like you knew where it was going, but it took too long to get there. Not enough plot, I say.
But you know, I think most people read Allen’s books for the characters, and they were larger than life here. I have this thing about senior citizens. I love them in real life and I love them as characters in books. In Lost Lake there were LOTS of them, and I loved every second of them. From Bulahdeen, the reminiscing, hopeful, and humorous old lady, to Selma, the vixen who steals married men from their wives, the characters were lovely. And then there was Lisette, the French immigrant who was born without a voice box, never learned sign language, and uses a notepad to communicate. The protagonist Kate and her adorably eccentric daughter Devin are wonderful as well. The only thing I can criticize Allen about here is that most of her characters are black or white. Either bad or good. It’s a bit predictable in that once you know who a villain is, you can count on them to stay a villain. Though there was one character who ended up surprising me for a second there.
Lost Lake is like a frosted cinnamon roll. An ooey-gooey, doughy cinnamon roll. It’s sweet, sugary, and absolute comfort food. This might be a bad thing for some readers, but for longtime fans of this author, and readers who love books about family and magical realism, this one is sure to be a hit. After all, it did make me ugly cry.