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Lake Overturn: A Novel by Vestal McIntyre

Lake Overturn: A Novel

by Vestal McIntyre

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1065170,590 (4)4



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This is one book that is sorely missing from many best of 2009 lists. Personally, I enjoyed this one more than the other books I read this year that found themselves on those lists.

Great characters with wonderful development abound. McIntyre handles his young characters with an expertise often lacking in fiction concerning adolescents. This novel has an interesting plot which kept my attention throughout, even when the issues were juvenile.

A fabulous read. I definitely look forward to McIntyre's next novel. ( )
  chrisblocker | Mar 30, 2013 |
Earlier this year, Jen from Devourer of Books spent a week focusing on titles from Harper Perennial. One of the titles she featured was Lake Overturn. This book especially caught my eye because of the gorgeous cover and the title. It fit the Body of Water category for my What's in a Name 3 reading challenge, but most of all, I loved the torn piece of paper floating on water. Something about that image struck me. After reading the novel, I still think it fits really well.

I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out exactly how I was going to tackle this post. I enjoyed the book, but there is way too much that can and probably should be said about it. As you can see in the summary, there are quite a few characters that inhabit Eula, Iowa. None of them are insignificant. I spoke about this with Jen and we both agreed that Lake Overturn is a novel made up of several short stories sewn together by time, place, and theme. Enrique and Gene may seem to be the main characters at the offset. It is their experiment - something that I found very fascinating - which provides this book its title. However, there is way too much going on in Lake Overturn for that to be true. They do not disappear in the middle of the story by any means, but it's fair to say that their experiences serve as bookends for the novel.

While I liked Lake Overturn and think that McIntyre is a talented writer, the number of characters weighed me down. Partially this is because I started reading this before finishing other books. Reading in fits and spurts did not work well at all. I didn't catch traction until I started reading it exclusively. I kept wanting to compartmentalize certain story lines - parents versus students, growing up versus falling in love, etc... but it really is impossible because of the way that the characters are related to one another.

Taken as a whole, however, it does have a lot to say about the things you do not know that are happening to the people around you. Everyone was caught up in their own crisis virtually that it would have been very easy for them to overlook one another entirely. It's been quite a while since I've thought this much about structure in any depth.

Final Thoughts

Vestal McIntyre has written an interesting story that is more than the coming of age of two young men. It's about the coming of age of an entire town. I would suggest reading this novel when you have the opportunity to fully concentrate on it. With the number of characters, it's easy to lose track of who is who unless reading Lake Overturn is your primary focus. ( )
  LiterateHousewife | Nov 29, 2010 |
Lake Overturn by Vestal McIntyre is one of the best books I have read in a very long while. It is a rare author who can introduce us to a cast of enchanting characters, while creating an intriguing story has well. McIntyre has succeeded on both counts.

Set in a typical Small Town, USA (Eula, Idaho), the reader is introduced to myriad personalities, each of whom the author gently breaths life into until you feel like you've known them your whole life. The story itself evokes themes of striving for excellence, as well as being mired in mediocrity. There are triumphs and failures. There are half truths and overwhelming dishonesty. We are brought along for the incredible ride as the characters search for their own personal joy.

McIntyre's writing style is evocative of Jeffrey Eugenides and Julia Glass. Hopefully he will be lauded as such or, at the very least, continue writing so we can enjoy his artistry. ( )
1 vote tela1226 | Oct 4, 2010 |
Literary fiction takes many forms. Sometimes it takes the shape of social satire placed within a simple narrative, other times it takes the form of an author, self-aware of the words he or she places on the page, and even still, other times it takes the form of a complexly interwoven plot. Partly masterful and partly mundane, Vestal McIntyre's Lake Overturn follows the characters of a small town of Eula in rural Idaho. Even though the setting and characters in this book strikingly resemble Napoleon Dynamite, this book spends no time seeking to be a comedy. The foundational plot line upon which the narrative is built centers upon the frightening phenomenon occurring at Lake Nyos in Cameroon. At the lake, gas was released from the depths of the lake and suffocated every living animal around the lake. In the novel, two junior high boys attempt to study what would happen if the lake overturn phenomenon occurred in their small town.

Titled lake overturn, this phenomenon happens when deep lakes build up extremely concentrated levels of carbon dioxide. When the pressure becomes too much for the lake's surface to bear, carbon dioxide bubbles from the depths of the lake similarly to a shaken soda can. Correspondingly, McIntyre's novel builds through a complex narrative of multiple main characters before the pressure in each character’s life releases as the novel opens up toward its end. In different ways, each character builds through depth and quality until their inner demons expose themselves in fantastic fashion. One character struggles with his sexuality, one seeks to find redemption from her addictive tendencies, and another despairingly searches for biblical answers to her ever-present loneliness.

The masterful portions of the book follow from these complex characters. McIntyre flawlessly switches between characters as they enter the story. Multiple times, one character runs into another in a paragraph and the next paragraph picks up on the new character's narrative. In writing this way, the author creates a complex web of relationships that truly place the focus on a small town community.

However, McIntyre's focus on narrative diminishes his artistic observation. Throughout my reading of this book, I never paused on a paragraph reflecting on a powerful observation or a striking metaphor. In Lake Overturn, McIntyre writes a story with no flashy frills or philosophical underpinnings. Nevertheless, he writes a compelling story, one I would recommend for its unique characters.

Originally posted at http://wherepenmeetspaper.blogspot.com/ ( )
  lemurfarmer | Sep 28, 2010 |
I am very unclear as to how I feel about this book. It takes place in the 1980s, set in a small town in Idaho, the plot covers multiple characters and their interactions, direct and indirect. There are a lot of Issues here. Everyone has a big Issue looming over them - the kid who is figuring out his sexuality, the man having an affair, the girl whose mother is terminally ill, the woman readjusting to having her teenage son return from foster care ... everyone is a Lifetime movie. And a big part of me couldn't stop thinking REALLY? REALLY, everyone in this town is having a movie-of-the-week issue at the same time?

On the other hand, the writing was quite solid. There wasn't a word or a phrase that struck the wrong tone in the entire thing, just about. It was consistent, believable, and created a clarity of description that was impressive.

I'm still pondering the choice of the time period.

Grade: I'm going to go with a very dependable B.
Recommended: Well, I think the subject matter could be annoying, so I would consider the Afterschool Specialness of it carefully before picking it up. It's not bad, but not outstanding, in the "Little Town, Big Secrets" genre. ( )
  delphica | Dec 22, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061671169, Hardcover)

A Washington Post Best Book of the year
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

Eula, Idaho, has never seen a battle, an earthquake, or a Democrat in City Hall. Yet life here is anything but simple.

Lina's angry son Jesús has recently returned to the trailer park after living with wealthy white foster parents. Her younger son Enrique and his best friend, Gene—who lives in a neighboring trailer with his very Christian mother, Connie—are misfits who cling to their studies in the face of schoolyard cruelties. Determined to win the statewide science fair, Enrique and Gene devise an experiment involving "lake overturn," a phenomenon in which deadly gases erupt from a lake's depths. In their endeavor to discover if Eula could suffer from such an event, the boys come into contact with an odd assortment of locals—including a frail-hearted school principal with grand ambitions, a lonely lawyer who finds new love as his wife is dying, and a woman who decides to escape a life of exploitation and addiction by becoming a surrogate mother.

With sweeping perspective and a Victorian wealth of character, Lake Overturn exposes small-town America in all its beauty and treachery, sunshine and secrets.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:19 -0400)

"Eula, Idaho, is a cluster of steeples, oak trees, and boxlike homes sandwiched between golden fields and a wide-open sky. It freezes in the winter and bakes in the summer, but the air is so dry that neither extreme gets under your skin. It has never seen a battle, or an earthquake, or a Democrat in City Hall. Still, life in Eula is anything but simple." "Lina and Connie are single mothers, neighbors in Eula's trailer park. Lina, the daughter of migrant Mexican farm workers, is trying to cope with her angry teenage son Jesus, newly returned after living with wealthy white foster parents. Connie, long abandoned, struggles with her literal reading of Old Testament laws against remarriage, especially when a handsome missionary visits her congregation. The women's younger sons, Enrique and Gene, are misfits whose mutual love of science offers stability and respite from schoolyard cruelties.". "Determined to win the statewide science fair, Enrique and Gene devise an experiment involving "lake overturn," a real scientific phenomenon in which deadly gases collect and eventually erupt from a lake's depths. In their quest to discover if Eula could suffer from such an event, the boys come into contact with an odd assortment of locals, including the frail-hearted school principal with grand ambitions, a rich but lonely lawyer who finds love outside his marriage just as his wife is succumbing to cancer, and a woman tortured by a past of abuse and addiction who decides to turn things around by offering herself as a surrogate mother."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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