Sarah Addison Allen
St. Martin's Press / January 21, 2014 / $25.99 print, $12.99 digital
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?
When you open a story by Sarah Addison Allen, you just know that you are going to be charmed with her imaginative, lyrical, and magical storytelling. Part of the anticipation is wondering what wondrous notions she will have concocted— from her imperfect but delightful characters to her beguiling mystical touches.
Lost Lake doesn’t disappoint in this regard. In the very first chapter, Ms. Allen starts her magic as Kate Pheris begins her story:
She used to draw tattoos of butterflies on her arms with Magic Markers. She would give them names, talk to them, carefully fill in their colors when they started to fad. When the time came that they wanted to be set free, she would blow on them and they would come to life, peeling away from her skin and flying away.
Her daughter, Devin has her own special magic:
She used to wear an eye patch, back when she was little. She’d loved it. As she grew older, she got to wear it less and less as her lazy eye improved, until finally the doctor said she didn’t need it anymore. He was wrong. Sometimes she still put it on when her mother wasn’t looking. She was convinced she saw things better with her lazy eye, better than other people. If she put her hand over her good eye, she could find the back of an earring lost in the rug. She could find where Grandma Cricket hid her secret stash of M&M’s in her office and the T-Shirt that had belonged to her dad that her mom still kept hidden. . .
But it is Ms. Allen’s special crafting of the characters that truly pull the reader in. The magic touches are on the periphery like a tantalizing frosting on a scrumptious, mouthwatering cake. But the characters—they are the cake.
There is Kate, who suddenly awaken after a year of being lost in despair after her husband’s death:
It had been exactly one year since Kate had picked up those scissors in the bathroom, after locking herself in after Matt’s funeral. She’d started at them, the stainless steel winking in the noon light, and she’d thought things she’d never known she was capable of thinking—dark, unforgivable things, but when she’d lifted the scissors, she instead took her grief and frustration out on her long brown hair. . .
That had been the last day she’d been awake.
And her daughter, eight year old Devin:
She loved wearing stripes with polka dots, and tutus, and pink and green socks with orange patent-leather shows. Devin could care less what other people thought about her.
Eby, Kate’s great aunt who has a reputation for fixing things and who the town folks believe never makes a bad decision:
There wasn’t a person in town who hadn’t found him—or herself driving out to the lake because life had become too crowded or too noisy, their marriage was a wreck, or they hated their boss. And they always sought out Eby. . . Eby had a reputation for fixing things. If people really wanted to change, she knew what to do. She would jump off a bridge after you if she thought she could help.
And of course she did that for Lisette fifty years ago. On her honeymoon in Paris, with her husband George, Eby saw Lisette jump off the Bridge of the Untrue, so she followed Lisette into the water, saving her life. After that, Lisette just adopted George and Eby as her own:
She’d followed them everywhere after that, as quiet and thin as a shadow, getting a room at their hotel, even later following them to Amsterdam, then finally back to America.
Lisette had turned out to be the best friend Eby had ever had, that thing she’d never know she’d needed when all she thought she’d needed was George. They had saved each other so many times over the years now that they’d eventually lost count.
And then there are Bulahdeen and Selma—two of the charming misfits who return to Lost Lake year after year:
Bulahdeen Ward was the oldest of all Eby’s guest. She was stooping like a fiddlehead fern now, curling into herself, making her appear that she was charging at life headfirst. . . She was a quiet force of nature, the peculiar southern lilt to her voice as old as low-country sand. Selma, tall and painted and standoffish, was Bulahdeen’s every opposite. They were an odd pair. Bulahdeen had somehow, somewhere along the way, decided that Selma was one of her best friends. Selma vehemently disagreed. Bulahdeen didn’t care.
And you can’t help root for Jack, who for thirty years has pinned for Lisette:
He liked the quiet here. He liked how removed it was. He liked that, after a while, the summer regulars got to know him and didn’t judge him for his shy nature and the way his eyes could never quite meet theirs. Most of all he liked the quiet woman in the kitchen.
He had never known how silent a person could be. Lisette’s presence was a comfort. . .
And most of all, your heart will be touched by Wes Patterson. A man far removed from the boy that spent a magical summer with Kate so long ago—a boy that didn’t want to let go of the best thing in his life. But then time has changed them both—or has it?:
They walked in a familiar silence. There was a muscle memory there, forged by repetition fifteen years ago.
Lost Lake is a combination of love story, fairytale, and lessons in life. You won’t want to miss it.
Learn more or order a copy of Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen, available January 21, 2014:
Leigh Davis, Blogger