Review: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

Review: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison AllenLost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
Published by Macmillan on 2014-01-21
Pages: 304
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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.

I’ve been a big Sarah Addison Allen fan since I read “Garden Spells” several years ago so it was a no-brainer for me to accept the ARC of her newest novel offered by NetGalley. “Lost Lake” is beautifully crafted and I devoured every word. Sometimes you come across a book that speaks to you at exactly the right moment in your life. “Lost Lake” is about loss and healing, which are two subjects I’m grappling with in my personal life. It helped me center myself and realize that we have the ability to change our own endings and that life will eventually be OK again.

The women in Kate’s family “disappear” after they lose their husbands. They lack the ability to cope or move on. Kate is no different. She doesn’t truly “wake up” until she finds an old postcard from a place called Lost Lake. In a bold move, she packs up her daughter and drives six hours to see a magical place from her childhood that she’s not sure even exists anymore. It does. What she finds is a group of people who come to Lost Lake to escape and heal for one last summer before developers take it over.

I think I like the supporting characters the most in “Lost Lake.” They’re quirky, funny, and real. Selma is perhaps the most interesting. She’s not a witch, per se, but she has charms. These charms allow her to get married men to fall in love with her (as long as they don’t really love their wives). You’d think that this character would be hard to hate, but Allen does a great job showing just how lonely this life is. It isolates her from most women, leaving her alone when the charm wears off the man dies or leaves. That’s why her relationship with Bulahdeen is so important. She’s the only one who sees through Selma’s schtick long enough to have a lasting friendship. Eby and Lisette also have a unique relationship. Eby saved Lisette from suicide when they were young and Lisette saved Eby from selling Lost Lake when they were old. Lisette has her own ghosts and is such an interesting and well-rounded character. Allen did a superb job making her more than her silence (she can’t talk). She has to cast away the ghosts that follow her so she can have the love of kindhearted man who visits Lost Lake every summer just to see her. I think Lisette was my favorite character.

Magical realism permeates this text, as it does in all of Sarah Addison Allen’s work. As a general rule, there needs to be more magical realism in this world. I think it allows adults to experience whimsy in a way that doesn’t threaten their reality. It’s not a fantasy novel. It’s a novel about true-to-life situations with a touch of *something* that makes you wonder if coincidence is really just the universe giving you a little magic in your life. I think that’s why Devin is such an important character. Children are often more perceptive than we give them credit for. We try to hide our feelings from them to keep them safe, but they know. They always know. Devin is no different. She know that her mother isn’t “awake,” she knows she sees an alligator nobody else sees, and she knows that they belong at Lost Lake. Finding the Alligator Box brought her mother and Wes together and saved Lost Lake from the hands of a developer. Who says that children can’t handle the life things we try to shield them from?

In all, I loved “Lost Lake.” It centered my personal feelings on loss and gave me some clarity about how (not) to grieve. I highly recommend it for fans of Sarah Addison Allen, fans of magical realism, and fans of reading about the way disparate characters come together to create a truly amazing community based on shared experience.


© 2014, Jessica Workman Holland. All rights reserved.