Published by Thomas Dunne Books Source: NetGalley
August 4th 2015 | Pages: 320
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Jo has been hiding the truth about her role in her high school boyfriend’s drowning for sixteen years. Every summer, she drops her children off with her mother at the lakeside community where she spent summers growing up, but cannot bear to stay herself; everything about the lake reminds her of the guilt she feels. For Jo's daughter Caroline, however, the lake is a precious world apart; its familiarity and sameness comforts her every year despite the changes in her life outside its bounds. Twelve years old and caught between childhood and adolescence, she longs to win her mother’s love and doesn’t understand why Jo keeps running away. When seven-year-old Sara Starr goes missing from the community beach, and rescue workers dredge up the bones Jo hoped would never be discovered, the quiet lakeside community’s tranquility is shattered. Caroline was one of the last people to see Sara alive on the beach and feels responsible for her disappearance and takes it upon herself to figure out what happened to the little girl. As Caroline searches for Sara, she uncovers the secrets her mother has been hiding, unraveling the very foundation of everything she knows about herself and her family.
I received The Secrets of Lake Road from the publisher via NetGalley. This does not influence my opinions or the content of my review. This review contains affiliate links and is in compliance with FTC guidelines.I have to agree with the closing of the book’s synopsis, The Secrets of Lake Road by Karen Katchur is a riveting novel that is impossible to put down and hard to forget. I started and finished this novel in one sitting because I felt such a strong need to know the different parts of the secret and what happened on that long-ago summer night.
This story of two tragic deaths is primarily told through the eyes of Jo, a thirty-two-year-old mother, and her twelve-year-old daughter Caroline, with a few other perspectives jumping in here and there, with the voice of a global narrator giving the thoughts of the characters. Jo is awkward with her children silently favors her son, brushing off her daughter, and sometimes disappears for several days to just drive and think in her misery. She struggles with her feeling inadequate as a parent and wife but doesn’t know how to improve the situation. Jo is a difficult character to like, yet I still felt for her struggles and understood how the situation developed.
Jo supposed it had to do with starting off in the right direction rather than buried in secrets the way her marriage had begun. It was just that sometimes her love was so tangled with guilt, it was hard to separate the two.
Caroline is my favorite character. She reminds me so much of Harriet the Spy or Willa Romeyn from The Truth According to Us. Caroline is self-sufficient because she has to be, loves to read and is not interested in boys or blue eye shadow yet, unlike her summertime friend Megan. She has no trouble biking or walking through the woods and swamps, sneaking out at night as part of her investigation, or even committing a pretty big crime. In thinking about the death of Sara, she has an idea.
Maybe if she learned the secret of Billy, she could end whatever it was that haunted her mother. What she wanted most and longed to know was what made her mother run. But her mother wasn’t running, not in her dream. She was swimming, farther and farther away, all the while Caroline was drowning in the lake.
Karen Katchur does an excellent job of slowly revealing just what happened sixteen years ago as Jo meets up with old friends who still live at the lake and her husband arrives to lend support. Readers also learn about life for the year-round residents of a vacation community and the politics of a small town with one powerful business owner. Caroline and Jo are both changed at the end of the week, as are many of the secondary characters including the sheriff and the sister of Billy who drowned sixteen years past.
She no longer believed in the things she once had at the start of summer, the kinds of things that only kids believed in like lake legends. She wasn’t the same girl who had once accepted the world as it was without question. . . Her mother seemed, oh, Caroline didn’t know, better somehow. She no longer felt as though it was her responsibility to figure her mother out. There was something different about her, something Caroline struggled to name, but she didn’t put much effort into it anyhow. She learned maybe it was better to leave some things alone.
The Secrets of Lake Road by @KarenKatchur is a riveting novel, impossible to put down Click To TweetUltimately, The Secrets of Lake Road is a story about family and communication. So many things would have been understood and made for happier lives if people asked questions instead of assuming they know details of what occurred, or why events happened or how another is feeling, sometimes projecting their own feelings on others. This is excellent debut fiction and I look forward to seeing what Karen Katchur bring readers next.