Saturday, March 22, 2014

Review: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

Often in life, our memories of a place are intimately connected to how we felt when we were there. We love places where we were happiest and dislike places where we were unhappy or disappointed. This is especially true if the feelings were particularly vivid. In Sarah Addison Allen's newest novel, Lost Lake, the magical, rural Georgia, lakeside resort of Lost Lake is a place that holds the happiest of memories and the power to heal for a whole cast of characters.

Kate lost her husband in a freak accident a year ago. She has been frozen in grief since then, sleepwalking through her life and unable to be present even for her seven year old daughter Devin. Her indomitable mother-in-law Cricket has stepped in and managed Kate's life when she couldn't do it herself but she has also imposed new, unwelcome rules. While Kate appreciates the help, she wakes up, literally and figuratively, on the morning that she and Devin are moving out of their house and into Cricket's and takes stock of everything. Realizing that she needs to make amends to her daughter for the difficult past year and for allowing Cricket to bulldoze them, she stumbles across a postcard from her great aunt Eby and decides that she and Devin will go and visit Eby and Lost Lake, a place that holds wonderful, warm memories for Kate and that she hasn't visited in many years.

But Kate could be too late. Eby has decided to finally sell Lost Lake to the developer who has been trying to get his hands on the property for years. She and her late husband, George, bought Lost Lake decades before and they loved and cared for the resort and the eccentric cast of characters who came there to spend their summers, a couple of whom descend on Eby for this final summer despite her insistence that she is selling the place and that it's not open. When Kate and Devin drive up the neglected track to the lake, Kate knows nothing of this.  She just wants to recreate the happy childhood summer she remembers for her daughter and to reconnect with the great aunt she always liked.

Kate learns new things about her own family, about Eby and George's long love story, and about the magic behind Lost Lake as she and Devin settle into the neglected resort. They are not alone, joined by Lisette, a mute French woman who has lived as the cook and Eby's closest friend at Lost Lake for decades; Bulahdeen, an elderly woman who counts on Lost Lake every summer; Selma, the man-eating enchantress who is Bulahdeen's friend and thorn in her side; and Jack, the quiet man who has long harbored unspoken feelings for Lisette. And when Kate ventures into town, she runs into Wes, the boy she was falling in love with so many long summers ago. But as much as none of them want Eby to sell, she has agreed and so she spends her days deciding what she can part with and saying her goodbyes in each corner of the resort. The town isn't quite ready to say goodbye to Eby though either now that it's imminent. Having depended on her good sense and kindness for years, they organize a huge farewell party to celebrate her and Lost Lake.

Lost Lake, the novel, is a feel good read about second chances, overcoming loss, healing, and learning to live again.  There is a lot of grief and sadness in the lives of its characters but it is still a hopeful and optimistic tale.  It is about family and love and finding the right life for yourself. Like Addison Allen's previous books, it has elements of magic running through it that easily point to the expected resolution of the plot. And while it is necessary to the plot, one magical aspect is a bit over the top. If you can suspend disbelief for this though, the story is a sweet one. The characters are well drawn and entertainingly offbeat, even endearingly kooky. They end up exactly where they should be at the end of the novel and even though there aren't really any surprises in the plot, getting to the end is over all pretty delightful.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.

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