I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 21, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Magical Realism, Romance
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From the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spellscomes a novel about heartbroken people finding hope at a magical place in Georgia called Lost Lake.
Suley, Georgia, is home to Lost Lake Cottages and not much else. Which is why it's the perfect place for newly-widowed Kate and her eccentric eight-year-old daughter Devin to heal. Kate spent one memorable childhood summer at Lost Lake, had her first almost-kiss at Lost Lake, and met a boy named Wes at Lost Lake. It was a place for dreaming. But Kate doesn't believe in dreams anymore, and her Aunt Eby, Lost Lake's owner, wants to sell the place and move on. Lost Lake's magic is gone. As Kate discovers that time has a way of standing still at Lost Lake can she bring the cottages—and her heart—back to life? Because sometimes the things you love have a funny way of turning up again. And sometimes you never even know they were lost . . . until they are found.
Every Sarah Addison Allen novel immediately goes onto the must have list. If I had to choose an author’s books to live in, I’m pretty sure Allen would be number one, because the romance, the light humor, and the little bit of magic make the atmosphere utterly delightful. The world of a Sarah Addison Allen is like the real world, only better, with magic working on your side to make sure things turn out just fine. Lost Lake may not be my favorite of Allen’s novels, but all of those characteristic elements remain, guaranteeing a fun read that will leave you a little bit happier than when you started.
The opening of Lost Lake through me a little bit at first. The first chapter takes place in 1962 in Paris, and I was kind of like “where is my magical south?” Then it shifts to Atlanta fifty years later, which was obviously super exciting, because hello hometown, for a little bit. Once you get through this part, I promise that you will get the magical southern setting that you’ve probably come to expect from Sarah Addison Allen, assuming you’ve read her before, which you totally should have. Also, bless Sarah Addison Allen for being able to write fiction that feels completely southern without having to resort to dialect.
Lost Lake truly comes alive, appropriately, when Kate and her daughter Devin go south to Lost Lake in Suley, GA to visit Kate’s great aunt Eby, the woman from the first chapter. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been watching Hart of Dixie lately, but I couldn’t help picturing Bluebell. Everyone in Suley or on the Lost Lake property specifically knows everybody else’s business. There’s a lot of gossip, most of it kind-hearted but some of it not so much. Most of all, it feels homey.
In Lost Lake, the magical realism takes the form of an alligator that no one can see but young Devin. The alligator speaks to her and helps her make events come out right. Additionally, Selma has a secret to her sexiness: she, like women before her, has eight charms which guarantee that she can make any married man leave his wife and marry her. There’s also a bit of a curse on the women of Kate and Eby’s family, such that they love so intensely they can scarcely survive the deaths of their husbands, which had me thinking of Practical Magic.
The characters are delightful, bursting with personality every single one of them. I have a special place in my heart for the friendship between Bulahdeen and Selma, who most women hate immediately, a side effect of her curse. The two clearly care about one another, but bicker constantly. It’s adorable. Devin is a charming moppet, who traipses about wearing all her favorite (and most ridiculous) outfits, enjoying a last hurrah before she’ll be forced into a private school uniform at the beginning of the school year. Basically, I love them all.
The big difference between Lost Lake and the two prior Allen novels I’ve read (Garden Spells and The Peach Keeper) is one of scope. Where the earlier works centered on one protagonist and her love interest, Lost Lake tackles multiple main characters, switching between at least eight third person limited points of view. Though I did like all the characters quite a bit, I think something was lost in the large cast. With each character’s back story to introduce, it sort of felt like by the time Allen had them all ready to really live in the present, the book was over. The twist of sorts I totally saw coming, and I didn’t really get the romantic conclusion I was anticipating. There’s simply a lot of story to fit into 300 pages, and Lost Lake might have benefited from either another hundred pages or a slightly tighter focus.
Even my least favorite Sarah Addison Allen novel is a pleasant experience. Lost Lake will likely have even more appeal for readers who prefer a novel that doesn’t center on a romance. This one can possibly bring in new fans, but I wasn’t really expecting the change.
“I taught literature for nearly forty years. The books I read when I was twenty completely changed when I read them when I was sixty. You know why? Because the endings changed. After you finish a book, the story goes on in your mind. You can never change the beginning. But you can always change the end.”
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