Every one of Sarah Addison Allen's books have been beautiful, and magical. But, her forced hiatus for a couple years brought a new depth and maturity to her writing. I loved Garden Spells, and enjoyed all of her other books. However, Allen's latest novel, Lost Lake, is as haunting and magical as the location of Lost Lake itself.
Eby Pim was one of the few Morris women who discover true love and escape the family greed. The women wanted money, but usually married for love, and spent the rest of their years regretting the money they didn't have. Eby found a man she loved, and shared a remarkable honeymoon in Europe for four months until they were forced to return home to Atlanta when her sister was widowed. But, Eby and George refused to allow money to control their life. Instead they bought a small resort on Lost Lake, Georgia, cabins encircling the lake, and brought their love and Eby's need to fix things to the small town.
Two generations later, Kate desperately needed to fix her life, but not in the way her mother-in-law expected. When her husband, Matt, died, Kate, like other Morris women, slept away a year, going through the motions. But, a year later, on the day they were to move in with Kate's mother-in-law, her eight-year-old daughter, Devin, discovered a postcard from Lost Lake, saying Kate could always come visit. Kate's impulsive decision to visit her great-aunt would send them to the resort, now a little run-down with few guests. And, Eby had finally given in to a developer, and agreed to sell.
At Lost Lake, Kate and Devin both find a refuge, a place where they feel as if they belong. Devin can be an eight-year-old, with a child's understanding of magic, while Kate finds a place where she can breathe for the first time in years. Kate had once had her "last best summer" at Lost Lake, and, now her daughter can have that, too. But, knowing Eby is selling Lost Lake means other people return for their own "last best summer", a return that brings misfits and lost souls home. And, Kate, along with a few others, begins to harbor a secret dream that maybe there's a way to save memories.
In summarizing Lost Lake, it's easy to get lost in the plot of a widow returning to the scene of her lost childhood. However, Sarah Addison Allen always adds so much more to her stories, a gift of her own magic that makes readers pause and ponder, and dream a little. Her characters are unusual, sometimes with gifts that aren't really magic, but gifts that have magical effects on those around them. Eby Pim wants to fix people. She takes in strays, including a lifelong friend from France. She's a woman who understands happiness, as others don't. "Wasn't happiness like electricy? Weren't we all just conduits?" "There was so much happiness in the world. It was everywhere. It was free. Eby never understood why some people, people like her family, simply refused to take it."
Allen's books blend exquisite phrasing, a touch of magic, and a glimpse into souls. They are thoughtful, beautiful books that leave a reader yearning for something more. It's hard to move onto the next book after reading one of her stories.
Lost Lake will mean something different to everyone who reads it. Is it a story of misfit souls who find a home, as Allen herself thinks? Is it a story of not letting go of a dream? Is it a story of finding the magic in life, whatever that magic means to you? Is it a story of determining the ending of your own story? Sarah Addison Allen offers every reader a magical gift of this book, a book that allows each reader to find their own answers and their own truth. "Putting aside her disbelief and confusion and worry for a moment - all things the adult in her felt - Kate found that the only thing left was the one true thing."
Sarah Addison Allen's website is www.SarahAddisonAllen, and she can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/SarahAddisonAllen.
Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen. St. Martin's Press. 2014. ISBN 9781250019806 (hardcover), 304p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy to review at my request. (Although, I also ordered my own copy of the book because I wanted to see the illustrations and endpapers.)