Review: Lost Lake

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.

Review: Lost LakeLost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 21, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Magical Realism, Romance
Pages: 296
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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three-half-stars

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.

Favorite Quote:

“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.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

It's kinda like this. Find your roots, Kate!

It’s kinda like this. Find your roots, Kate!

9 responses to “Review: Lost Lake”

  1. I am so excited about this book! I have a lovely signed copy on my shelf, I just need time to read and savor it!
    Kate- Midnightbookgirl recently posted…Audio Review of Bellman & BlackMy Profile

  2. Ooh the idea of an alligator that no one except for one person can see is such a cool concept. Also, well-developed characters are always a great thing to see in a book, even if the large cast of main characters took away from the overall reading experience. Fantabulous review, Christina! <33
    Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain recently posted…Ten Tiny Breaths by KA TuckerMy Profile

  3. I’ve never read anything by this author, but maybe I need to change that! I feel like I’ve seen a few positive reviews of this one lately… but because of your point about scope, I might start with one of her other novels. I think I prefer a deeper focus on one or two main characters, generally.
    Kim @ The Avid Reader recently posted…Challenging MyselfMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      I would definitely start with Garden Spells. It’s her first, and my favorite so far, though I’ve still not read her second or third novels.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Sarah Addison Allen is so charming! She’s like a fluffier Southern Alice Hoffman. And you’re right – I hadn’t thought about it before, but she really captures the South instead of…well all the billion ways to get the South wrong (usually offensively so. I’m looking at you Beautiful Creatures.)
    Elizabeth recently posted…Top Ten Books That Will Make You CryMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      It’s funny, because this reminded me of Practical Magic at some points. :-p I’ve only read two Alice Hoffman, actually, but I should fix that.

      UGH, Beautiful Creatures is awful on so many levels.

  5. Bonnie says:

    I was so glad to have more to read from Allen but I agree, this wasn’t my favorite. The alligator thing really took me a while to be okay with, something about that just felt off. I got used to it though. I really enjoyed the full cast of characters but I agree that it took something away as a whole. You should totally read The Sugar Queen, it’s my favorite of hers.
    Bonnie recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday – Cavendon Hall by Barbara Taylor BradfordMy Profile

  6. Heather says:

    I totally agree on the way in which Allen gets the charm of the South, without using dialect. I could feel the heat on my skin while reading this, which was super nice because it’s freezing here. She has such a wonderful ability to make the reader feel like they’re in the story, too.

    I’m so glad you recommended Garden Spells to me so long ago, as Allen has been a favorite author ever since!

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