Sarah Addison Allen: Lost Lake

One of the seven limited edition postcards.

Hi! Here is another product I preordered at the end of 2013 for a 2014 release date.

...It seems weird calling a book a "product."

Anyway, when I heard that Sarah Addison Allen, an author I just discovered last year (you can see my review of the only other book I've read of hers here) but whose style I've fallen in love with, was finally having her fifth novel published, I couldn't wait for January 21, 2014 to roll around. My boyfriend preordered it for me as a gift, and I received shortly before my trip to California. As such, it was the book I took with me for my flight.

After reading The Girl Who Chased the Moon, and the backs of the other few books Allen has published, I knew Lost Lake was the book I wanted to read on my trip to and from California. I knew I'd be sad and restless, and I knew that her books are ones with refreshing, warm, and comforting stories spread across the pages. I wanted to bring a book whose story would distract me from the emotions I would feel - a book that would pull me into another life.

Allen's work thus far has managed to do just that, and I'm happy to share my thoughts on this new novel with you. Since it's more often than not inevitable for book reviews to be scarce in pictures, I'm also happy to say that upon the preorder availability of Lost Lake, Allen's website sent out an email that mentioned a neat bonus for those who did choose to preorder the novel: the submission of a preorder receipt and some basic information gave readers a chance to receive a set of limited edition postcards (such as the one above) with artwork from the novel. Please enjoy the pictures of these postcards throughout my review!

The spine of Lost Lake.

If I had to sum up my thoughts on Allen's novels thus far in few words, I would say whimsical and magical. Her stories breathe wonder into common, everyday life. The cover artwork of my hard cover, first edition copy captures this power beautifully.

The front cover.

The back cover.

As I mentioned in my review of The Girl Who Chased the Moon, Allen's covers definitely have a way of drawing me in. What I love about this one is how it takes the main setting of the novel - the swamps of Lost Lake - and decorates them with colorful lamps that reflect on the novel's main event, the goodbye party for Eby Pim.

I also love the decoration of the opening page in the book. The route map of Georgia is, in my opinion, both appropriate and important as it reflects the journey to Lost Lake as well as its maze-like quality.

The inside of the book when you first open it.

One of the aspects I love about Lost Lake is Allen's way of building the history for each character. One example is the history of Eby Pim, one of the novel's main characters and the owner of Lost Lake, whose main conflict in the novel is whether or not she should sell the lakeside cabin resort that was the product of her rich marriage with the late George Pim. Allen scatters scenes from Eby and George's early marriage, showing how they met and how Lost Lake came into their ownership. I especially love how the first snippet of their lives, their honeymoon in France that opens the novel, begins with what seems to be their witnessing of a young girl's suicide. We later learn that the girl lives, and that she is the mute Lisette who becomes an integral part of Eby's life (and Eby, of hers) and remains the cook at Lost Lake.

The second of seven limited edition postcards.

Lisette is one of the most fascinating characters in Lost Lake to me. Her life is centered around two events: the suicide of the boy, Luc, whose heart she broke and the day Eby Pim truly saved her by giving her life purpose. Throughout the book, Lisette is haunted by Luc as well of the thought of Eby selling Lost Lake. She is a character of great expression despite her absent voice, and she is one of the beautiful depictions of love through the realm of friendship. Her happiness at the book's end is one that you can't help but hope for.

The third of seven limited edition postcards.

With regards to Luc, I love the inclusion of his ghost seated on the empty chair in the kitchen, constantly in Lisette's company, until the story's end. His ghost is just one example of Allen's ability to draw magic, both dark and light, into an otherwise concretely realistic setting. His presence, though simple and childish, gave me the chills I often hope for from most horror stories.

The fourth of seven limited edition postcards.

The other major character pair in Lost Lake is Kate Pheris, Eby's great-niece, and her daughter, Devin, the young girl with an eccentric taste in personal expression. At the book's start, Kate finally "wakes up," as Allen puts it, from her grief after the passing of her husband Matt. This "sleeping" grief is one that is characteristic in the women of the Pim side of her family - as they are all known to shutdown after the loss of their husbands, their anchors in life. Having woken up and seeing her daughter's need for her love, Kate decides to take Devin on a road trip to Lost Lake, the place where she spent her last best summer. It is here that Kate's strength is regained, and Devin decides that Lost Lake is the place she wants her life to be, adding to the overall conflict that Eby struggles with.

The fifth of seven limited edition postcards.

A series of other relationships and character histories are built at Lost Lake, including two regulars - the loudly bright Buhladeen and her dragged around (yet extremely dear) friend Selma, who is gifted with seven charms to steal married men - the handyman Wes, who is Kate's first love and the reason behind her last best summer at Lost Lake, and his brother Billy, the alligator-ghost that haunts the lakeside cabin resort, as well as a slew of other characters that find themselves drawn back to Lost Lake for Eby's farewell party. Each character's history is fleshed out, and they are all connected by Eby and Lost Lake.

The sixth of seven limited edition postcards.

Aside from the character histories, I truly appreciated the aforementioned whimsy and magic apparent throughout the story. I already mentioned Luc's ghost, but to go along with that are Wes's little brother Billy's ghost, transformed into an alligator as he always hoped to be with his Alligator Box, and Selma's seven charms that disappear every time she steals yet another married man (the story's present-time revealing the way she spends her last of the seven). I love how Allen takes events that can be classified outside of the book as imagination and a kind of human nature, and turns them into magic that is very much real and drives the story forward. 

The last of  the seven limited edition postcards.

To make Lost Lake a complete package, there is an air of mystery with a solution that I'm happy to say surprised me. I don't want to spoil it for you here so I won't go any further with that. Additionally, I love how this book focuses on love as a whole: love in the form of marriage, love in the form of family, and love in the form of friendship. Kate and Wes cross paths again, Devin discovers trust in her mother's complete presence, Lisette allows herself to love the man that has loved her in her time at Lost Lake, Eby is reunited with Kate and her love for Lost Lake - even the seemingly cold Selma produces a rather surprising ending that reveals the depth of her love for her friend Buhladeen, who she otherwise claims is a nuisance. I'm usually not a fan of constant happy endings, but with Allen you simply can't help but want just that for every character.

Of course, every book does have its flaws, and Lost Lake is no exception, though they are few. The scene I disliked the most in the entire book was the reappearance of Cricket - Kate's late husband's mother - at Lost Lake. Throughout the book, Cricket is an aggressive, my-way-and-my-way-only kind of character who thrives in exerting control over everything in her life - including Kate and Devin after her son's death. She is completely taken aback and infuriated by Kate's decision to take Devin to Lost Lake, and finally chases them down near the novel's end to bring them back home with her. That is undoubtedly in character.

But what isn't is Cricket's sudden transformation shortly after her arrival once Devin, who runs away from her, is found again. After all the trouble she takes to control just about everything in her life, she suddenly decides OK, Kate and Devin can stay at Lost Lake, because she wants them to be happy. Perhaps I read it wrong, but I didn't see any dramatic event in that short time span that would validate Cricket's character transformation. It honestly felt like something that was done simply to move the plot further along the direction of its happy ending.

I also wish that the area of Lost Lake itself was described in a bit more detail. Again, it could have been my reading of the book, but, although I know the maze-like setting of Lost Lake and Wes's neighboring property are given a good deal of description, I still feel like I don't know all of Lost Lake. This is the opposite of how I felt, and still feel, about Mullaby, the setting of The Girl Who Chased the Moon.

Not surprisingly, then, The Girl Who Chased the Moon beats Lost Lake as my favorite novel by Sarah Addison Allen. It makes me sad, too, to know that there are only three books left of hers to read, as she's only published five total. It really does break my heart! But, in any case, I did thoroughly enjoy Lost Lake, and it makes me that much more excited to read more of Allen's work. I loved the characters, I loved their stories, and I loved the way everything was pieced back together at the novel's end. It's an excellent book, and one that definitely did not leave me disappointed.

So, thanks for stopping by. Definitely check out Lost Lake if it sounds like the type of book you enjoy reading, or if it's just something you are curious about. Until next time! ('<>')>


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