Book Review: The Lake of Dreams

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The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards
Viking, $40

The Lake of Dreams book cover. Photo / Supplied
The Lake of Dreams book cover. Photo / Supplied

Coming home is a familiar theme for both novels and movies.

Unfinished business, old hurts, first loves - it's fertile ground for any sort of story.

And it's where American writer Kim Edwards has chosen to go for the follow-up to her hugely popular The Memory Keeper's Daughter. Since its release in 2007, the best-seller has been enjoyed by over six million readers worldwide.

I wasn't among them. I found the story of a woman who raises a doctor's secret Down syndrome child both ponderous and unlikely, and failed to see what all the fuss was about.

The Lake Of Dreams, though, is a different book and a different story.

Lucy has been travelling the world and is living in Japan with her boyfriend, Yoshi, where she is unsettled by her lack of work as well as a series of earthquakes that have struck the area.

When, back in the US, her mother is involved in a minor car accident, she heads home to the picturesque tourist town, The Lake Of Dreams, and the rambling house near the water where much of her family history has taken place. There she finds many issues that remain unresolved.

There are simmering feelings for an old love, guilt over her father's death, family business conflict, and eventually there's also a mystery that becomes the teasing central theme of the story. For, while her mother is finally ready to move on from the past, Lucy finds herself immersed in it.

She happens upon some fragments of letters and a beautiful old piece of woven cloth hidden away in the house and slowly uncovers their link to the mysterious life of one of her ancestors, Rose, her loss, heartbreak and her ties to a famous stained-glass artist.

What I find with Edwards' writing is that she has a fondness for minutiae - she feels the need to tell us about practically every last coffee Lucy drinks, for instance - and perhaps that's why the last novel seemed ponderous.

However, this time the writing style works, building up a sense of Lucy's aimlessness as she mooches round her hometown trying to find a turning point for her life.

Woven in along the way are lots of interesting scraps of history and information about the area in which the story is set, the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.

There's the appearance of Halley's Comet, the suffragette movement, the stained-glass industry, American Indian rights, women's rights, etc. Edwards balances all these elements well and the book wears its research fairly lightly. The result is a slightly whimsical, captivating tale with a satisfying ending.

Great summer reading.

- NZ Herald

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