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Lake People by Abi Maxwell

Lake People (edition 2013)

by Abi Maxwell

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333338,203 (4.33)None
Title:Lake People
Authors:Abi Maxwell
Info:Knopf (2013), Hardcover, 224 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Fiction, New Hapshire Lake District, Linked stories

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Lake People by Abi Maxwell



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The Lake People
Abi Maxwell

My "in a nutshell" summary...

Lots of stories, sadness and mystery surround a family and a found baby.

My thoughts after reading this book...

A family has an attachment and lots of mystical feelings about this lake that has provided them with way too much sorrow. There are all of these beliefs that people get drawn to and swallowed up by this lake...sometimes even when they don't want to...even when they take precautions...like the men who had a canoe and still drowned. Whew!

The book is divided into sections and eras and we learn and relive the history f this family and those connected to them. Especially important is Alice Thornton...the baby who was found in a canoe near the lake. Most of the story is about her and how she discovers who she is.

What I loved about this book...

I did enjoy the bits of history about this family...I loved the parts about Signe's life as a teacher and as a person who loved ordering things from catalogs...I loved the way she labeled her canned goods and ordered pheasant and truffles and other strange delights.

What I did not love...

I chose this book to read but I ultimately did not enjoy it. In my mind it rambled, the lake part was weird and I didn't connect with any character...I thought the most interesting character was Signe and all of her lost loves. I found nothing starkly wrong with this book. The author weaves a lovely story. I just didn't love it.

Final thoughts...

A tightly woven mysterious book about a rather odd family and a lake. Readers who love a sort of folklorish tale should really enjoy this. ( )
  PattyLouise | May 13, 2013 |
Lake People by Abi Maxwell is a positively stunning debut, an exquisite novel in the tradition of Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. I read it once slowly and then immediately turned around and read it again even more slowly. Why? Because the author’s well-crafted, precise, and distilled prose was a thorough delight, a quiet pleasure…something easily savored twice.

Lake People is an unusual novel told in stories; together the stories form a complete and interconnected whole. Overall, the book is about the life of Alice Thornton, one inhabitant of a small town in the Lake District of New Hampshire.

The book begins where it ends, in 1982, when Alice is 24. In the first chapter, Alice recounts the story of how she was discovered in 1958 as an orphan in a basket in a canoe tied to the boathouse of a prominent town resident. We learn about her great-great-grandmother, Eleonora, whose story forms part of the common heritage and mythology of the town.

In the next chapter, we move back to 1910. Alice’s biological grandmother, Sophie, tells a story about her Aunt Signe (one of Eleonora’s daughters). That chapter is called “My Heavenly Days” and it is one of many outstanding and satisfying self-contained stories in this unusual novel.

The story “Hush,” finds us in 1958. This is a third-person narrative recounting the details concerning the discovery of Alice as an orphan. We learn about Alice’s father, mother, uncle, grandmother, and grandfather. We also learn about Mike Shaw and his girlfriend June, inhabitants of the rental above the boathouse where Alice was discovered. This chapter is not so much a self-contained short story as it is part of the architecture of the ongoing tale of Alice’s life.

The next story is called “Free.” It is one of my favorite complete stories within the novel, and it is told as a third-person narrative. In it we learn about an important event in the life of Alice’s adoptive parents, Clara and Paul Thornton.

This is followed by a chapter called “Crossing.” In this story, Alice narrates, in the first person, two related tales about her friend Devnet. In the first story, Alice is 12 and Devnet 13. Their friendship ends over how Devnet reacts during an incident that tests their integrity. The second tale is occurs when Alice is 36 and Devnet is 37. They meet again, this time by chance, and similar moral issues arise.

The next tale is called “Lake People.” Alice is 16. This story is told as a third-person narrative and recounts a significant event in Alice’s life. We learn more about Mike Shaw and his wife, June. We also learn more about Alice’s father. Together with “Crossing,” the previous story, this chapter teaches us more about the wealthy inhabitants of the Lake District, the folk who own mansion vacation homes in the area.

In “Hill Country,” Alice is 21. This short story is told as a third-person narrative and recounts Alice’s brief marriage to Josh, a man who she loves deeply but who is incapable of loving her back. We also get to know one of Alice’s cousins, a poor and uneducated woman name Martha who is related to her biological mother. It is another outstanding, self-contained short story, an incredible emotional tour-de-force.

The last five stories all take place in 1982, when Alice is 24. The first chapter, called “The Village,” is a third-person narrative recounting Alice’s visit to find and meet her adoptive mother, who abandoned Alice as an infant. At the end of the piece, her mother gives Alice a deed to an island property in the Lake District once owned by her great-great-grandmother, Eleonora. This is another amazing and deeply felt self-contained short story.

The next chapter is called “The Island.” In it we learn about Alice’s adventures discovering and living in her new island home. It is a touching story about opening yourself to love after your heart’s been broken, and then having your heart broken once more, because of a significant misunderstanding. This is a heart-wrenching short story that, although self-contained, we are happy to have played out to a better conclusion in the final chapter.

The next tale is called “Polite.” In it, Alice’s biological grandmother, Sophie, writes directly to Alice in a first-person narrative. She tells Alice what she feels about other family members and family events. It is an apology of sorts, but it is also very revealing about Sophie’s character and life. This chapter is part of the novel’s architecture and ties pieces from the other stories together.

“The Old Factory,” is, perhaps, the best short story in the novel. Discover it for yourself. It is brimming with life and amazing in every way.

The final chapter is called “Return;” it is not a self-contained short story but a first-person narrative told by Alice that tacks a lovely and fitting conclusion onto the story arc composed of all the other stories in the book.

This is an unusual novel where each chapter tells a complete and satisfying story; together they give you an unforgettable portrait of a life, a people, and a place. Maxwell finds the extraordinary in the ordinary and imbues it with such a life force that the reader feels transported in time and place. If you enjoy complex, character-driven novels rich with emotion and an almost-being-there sense of place, this could be one of the books you’ve been searching for. I recommend it highly. ( )
  msbaba | Jan 11, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307961656, Hardcover)

A haunting, luminous debut novel set in a small New Hampshire town: the story of the crisscrossing of lives, within and without family, and of one woman, given up for adoption as a baby, searching for the truth about her life.

As an infant, Alice Thornton was discovered in Kettleborough, New Hampshire, in a boathouse by the lake; adopted by a young, childless couple; raised with no knowledge of the women who came before her: Eleonora, who brought her family to Bear Island, the nearly uninhabitable scrap of land in Kettleborough’s lake; Signe, the maiden aunt who nearly drowned in the lake, ashamed of her heart; Sophie, the grandmother who turned a blind eye to her unwanted granddaughter. Alice grows up aching for an acceptance she can’t quite imagine, trying to find it first with an older man, then with one who can’t love her back, and finally in the love she feels for one she has never met. And all the while she feels a mysterious pull to the lake. As Alice edges ever closer to her past, Lake People beautifully evokes the interweaving of family history and individual fate, and the intangible connections we feel to the place where we were born.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:00 -0400)

"Set in a small New Hampshire town, a story of the crisscrossing of lives, within and without family, and of one woman, given up for adoption as a baby, searching for the truth about her life"--Dust jacket flap.

(summary from another edition)

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