Thursday, December 1, 2011

Book review: The Lake of Dreams

As you may have noticed (to the left), a little while ago I joined the BlogHer Publishing Network. Doing this allowed me to join a community of bloggers that could inspire me and promote my blog. Another benefit is the BlogHer Book Club, in which a publisher sends me a book (always a treat!), which I get to review. In the next few weeks, I’ll also join some online discussions about it. This is a paid review, plus I get the book for free, but it’s all my very own opinionated opinion.

The Lake of Dreams was written by Kim Edwards, who also wrote the wildly popular The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. It tells the story of Lucy Jarrett, living a somewhat unsettled life in Japan. Though she lives with a boyfriend she loves, he’s caught up in an exciting career while her own career has stagnated and she’s between jobs. She’s also still reeling from her father’s sudden death. When she finds out her mother has had an accident, she heads back to the States and her hometown of Lake of Dreams, where she’s plunged into both the past and the future: it’s a life that’s intimately familiar and yet changing rapidly. While poking around her mother’s house, she also gets caught up in a tantalizing and complex ancestral mystery. The story is both the resolution of the mystery as well as Lucy confronting her own past, and how she tries to release control of her family’s future while also trying to determine her own.

The book has a lot of layers, but two of them spoke to me in particular. The first was the theme of change, and how Lucy was resistant to so much of it. When she returns to Lake of Dreams, she is stunned to see land being sold and developed, her mother dating, and her brother doing a very uncharacteristic u-turn in his life. She doesn’t like or understand why things are changing so much and her family must gently remind her that she left Lake of Dreams and doesn’t have too much room to judge their actions. I could relate to how Lucy wanted so many things from her childhood to stay the same, even though she had moved on. I can’t drive by the village stores of my childhood without yelling at the kids, "That bank used to be The Happy Pickle!" or "There was an old bike path I loved, right where these houses are now!" and I feel irrationally angry when schools or churches I loved are torn down and replaced. I’m constantly perplexed that certain kids aren’t, in fact, three years old and are now headed to college, or that my parents' friends have become senior citizens. Though I’ve moved on with my life, there are times I wish I could step right back into the comfort of the childhood I remember.

Another layer that spoke to me right now was the mother/daughter dynamic. Lucy was willful and somewhat critical of her mother, and I’ve certainly been on both sides of that coin. The ancestral mystery contains a mother/daughter bond that was destroyed, and story lines like that always give me pause and help me get through some of the trying moments with my nine-going-on-sixteen-year-old daughter. At the end of the day, and the end of the book, the mother/daughter bond holds tight in all cases, and that’s how I believe life usually ends up as well.

In my opinion, this is a good book for quiet winter evenings. You can’t rush through it or you’ll never get the characters straight, and, similar to the Memory Keeper’s Daughter, you need to pay attention to the nuances of the story so you experience the book fully. I also feel that if you rush through parts of it – which I confess I occasionally did – all the characters won’t be as well developed as the author likely intended.

And as you read it, see if you start having some really weird dreams. I did.

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