I read this book in just two and a half days! (think of it, folks. An entire book in less than three days?)
Sarah Addison Allen is a new author to me. I see she has several popular books out, but this was a first of her writing, for me.
It certainly kept my interest. I wanted to know how the story would end, I enjoyed the characters, I LOVED Devin, the little girl and her cute outfits she would dress up in! How creative (the descriptions of what she wore), and how realistic! (having had little girls of my own, I KNOW how they love to dress up!)
The atmosphere worked for me, too. After all, who is there that doesn’t love a lake, and old cabins, and picnics?
“Darkness fell, and the only illumination came from the umbrella poles wrapped in strings of twinkle lights, which Eby had found in the storeroom and brought out for one last summer. They created round dots of light across the lawn. As they ate hot dogs with brown mustard and dill potato salad on paper plates, they talked about the summers they’d had here. The summer it had rained every day and all the wallpaper peeled off the walls, and a carpet of frogs took up residence on the lawn. The summer it was so dry you could see the bottom of the lake, and guests waded out and found trinkets they thought they’d lost in the water years ago – coins with wishes still attached, old barrettes, hard plastic toy soldiers. “
Kate is trying to recover from the unexpected death of her young husband, Matt. In the process, she has let herself be overtaken by Cricket, Matt’s mother, and her goals for Kate’s, (and Kate’s eight-year old daughter, Devin’s), lives.
Will Kate escape and find her own way? Will Devin grow up in Cricket’s shadow?
Kate finds an old postcard from a relative (a great-aunt) of hers, and remembers a magical summer at Lost Lake. She decides to visit there again and takes Devin with her, much to her mother-in-law’s frustrated fury! When she arrives there with Devin, Kate re-connects with Eby and a couple other characters from the past who are also struggling with their own life decisions.
Most of the characters worked for me, a couple I thought maybe pushed the edge a bit….but on the whole, nothing that would make me not want to finish reading. I thought Cricket was a person almost everyone at one time or another, can recognize….that control-freak quality is easy to spot! She is a character that the reader just roots for, to be thwarted in her plotting and planning!
The characters that Kate and Devin meet and interact with during the story makes for a very interesting read, complete with a mysterious alligator who happens to show up now and then (the alligator lost me a bit, to be honest…but, I still enjoyed the book).
Four stars? Five? (how about, four and a half).
Sarah Addison Allen is good at finding common human failings and writing about them. She turns her characters inside out to show us and examine all the ins and outs of why we make the choices we do, even if they are against our better thinking.
“She (Kate) could do anything she wanted. She could move anywhere. But she’d never been on her own. She’d lived with her mother, then Matt. When Matt died, she’d discovered a void in her life she hadn’t known was there. She missed her mom, and she missed her dad, but it took losing Matt for her to finally see just how isolated she’d been, like running out of rope. Cricket had stepped in and had filled that part of her daily existence for the past year, but they were each poor substitutes for what the other really wanted. But it was better than nothing.”
Selma, an aging femme fatale, is a character I did *not* like. Cricket, Kate’s mother-in-law, had her very-obvious-to-the-reader controlling nature, but she is who she is, and I could deal with that. She knew who she was and she acted accordingly and predictably.
Selma, on the other hand, enjoys being nasty and stealing other women’s husbands. She makes no apologies for who she is, and she does not change in the novel. She knows what she does is wrong, and she simply.doesn’t.care. who she hurts. Selma continues in her pathetic stubborness to seek for happiness by causing grief to other women. Why is that? (another part of human nature, the worst part?)
(Just as a side note: there is no real moral or lesson to be learned from this novel…. the characters make decisions and choices often based on the momentary nudge. As such, I would call it ‘escapist’ fiction. It’s a pleasant, easy read, and the reader is able to identify with many of the characters’ dilemmas and feelings, but not one to discover a moral truth, as in “Anna Karenina” or one of Trollope’s novels.)
Matt, Kate’s old flame, has his own dragons to slay. How he comes to terms with the griefs of his past make for another interesting twist to the story.
I liked Bulahdeen! It was great discovering her backstory almost at the end of the book!
“Selma patted her mouth with her napkin, leaving a smear of lipstick. “No, really, you should look into getting that medication.”
Bulahdeen ignored her. “I taught literature for nearly forty years. The books I read when I was twenty completely changed when I read them when I was sixty. You know why? Because the endings changed. After you finish a book, the story still goes on in your mind. You can never change the beginning. But you can always change the end. That’s what’s happening here.”