Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen (2014)
Sarah Addison Allen is a New York Times bestselling author who grew up in Asheville, North Carolina. Her novels Garden Spells, The Sugar Queen, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, The Peach Keeper and now Lost Lake all have a touch of the supernatural blended in with otherwise realistic stories.
(The first one I read was The Girl Who Chased the Moon, which I came across quite by chance in the bookshop downtown, and bought without knowing anything about it except what I could read on the cover. I think by now the only one of her books I haven’t read is the first one – I suppose I must rectify that.)
Lost Lake has quite a cast of slightly odd characters (although perhaps not all that much odder than most of us, when we scrape the surface). Kate, a young widow with a little daughter, is still feeling rather numb with grief after losing her husband. To escape her controlling mother-in-law, she decides to take her daughter on a summer trip to visit a place where she herself spent happy summers as a child; a kind of holiday camp resort owned by an old relative, Eby. Eby, also now a widow, is thinking of selling the estate, as she no longer feels able to keep it up on her own (or with just one servant/friend to help), and there aren’t many guests coming to stay any more.
There are still a few who return for their usual summer holiday though; and then there are the people living in the village as well. Among those an old childhood friend of Kate’s whom she hasn’t seen since back then.
In various ways and for various reasons, a number of people (all in some way a little “lost”) are drawn to the Lost Lake this summer – maybe even some who no longer quite belong in the physical world. Sometimes in this novel the line is very thin between physical reality, and a lost one that lingers (perhaps) only in our minds, but still tends to keep us in its grip anyway.
One review of this book that I happened to glance at before reading it, expressed the opinion that the novel could have stood on its own feet without any hints of the supernatural. I’m not so sure. I suppose that might be possible – but then it would have been a different book! As I understand it, the “stretch of reality” in this story serves to underline the theme of loss, and how to deal with it (or learn to live with it).
If you tried to separate the magic from the rest of the story, I fear that you might just find yourself lost!