June 10, 2015

Just Wanna Go Home

The Lake Season by Hannah McKinnon

Release Date: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster | Emily Bestler Books
Pages: 384 pages
Source & Format: Publisher; e-ARC
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Summary (from Goodreads)
Iris Standish has always been the responsible sister: the one who studied hard, settled down, and always made the right choices—even when they came at the expense of her passions. Meanwhile, her sister Leah dropped out of college to “find herself” by hiking through Yellowstone and switches jobs nearly as often as she switches lovers, leaving Iris to pick up the pieces in her wake. 

But now Iris’s life is coming apart at the seams, and when Leah calls her back to their childhood home with a desperate cry for help, she is thrust headfirst into preparations for her sister’s wedding to a man their New Hampshire clan has never met…with her own marriage and family on the brink. 

Still, despite the rush of dress fittings, floral arrangements, and rehearsal dinners, Iris is learning to put herself first. And amid a backdrop of late-night swims and a soul-restoring barn renovation comes Cooper Woods, a high school crush who beckons with the promise of a new start.

While Leah faces a past that has finally caught up to her, Iris prepares to say goodbye to a future that is suddenly far from certain. As Hampstead Lake shimmers in the background, Iris must decide when to wade in cautiously and when to dive—and, ultimately, how to ferry herself to safe harbors in this “glittering…memorable” novel of second chances and the ties that bind (Michelle Gable, nationally bestselling author of A Paris Apartment).

Thoughts on The Lake Season
I'll admit that it was the cover of The Lake Season that first caught my eye. Something about it just screamed, "Read me!" Then, I did the thing I sometimes do - I read the summary and decided it wasn't for me. While I'm drawn to stories about sisters, I can be dismissive of books about failing marriages. Maybe it's my stage in life or just personal preference, but it's often my reason for not reading contemporary adult fiction titles. But when a publicist pitched it to me and mentioned why she loved it, I decided to give it a shot.

Thankfully, I'm glad I took a chance on The Lake Season. Iris Standish has done everything "right" in life. From marriage to motherhood, she's the picture of having it all together, especially compared to her sister. Leah is the one who dropped out of school and seems to float through life while always managing to come out on top. But there's more to both than meets the eye, and it all comes to the surface when they return to their childhood home for the summer: Leah to plan her wedding and Iris to find peace about the future.

My favorite thing about The Lake Season was the setting. When Iris pulled up at her childhood home, I felt like I was there with her. From the barn to the lake, I felt as refreshed and comforted as Iris did when I imagined it all. McKinnon writes, "The lake was everywhere: in the air, between your toes. It even found you in sleep, rippling through your dreams, its gentle wake a soothing balm to all that ailed you." That description alone sold me on this gorgeous place! It becomes, for both Iris and Leah, a place to escape the world but still be forced to deal with their issues. There are moments where it proves to be their undoing - and others where you know it's the making of them. It's a place that helps tear down the junk and restore the beauty.

As I kind of expected, I wasn't a huge fan of every aspect of Iris' story. The summary references Cooper Woods, her high school crush, but he's also the man in charge of restoring the barn on the family's property. While I liked the character, I really disliked this storyline. It ended up being my least favorite part of the book, though I can understand the role it played in Iris' journey. However, I did enjoy the way Iris starts to reclaim parts of herself that she'd forgotten and to see herself in a new way. There's also an exploration of the sacrifices a woman makes as a wife and a mother, and I think many will be able to relate to it.

But the aspect I found most memorable was the relationship between the two sisters and the dynamics within the family. There were some moments that struck close to home, and I appreciated how realistic it felt to me. I loved the complexity here, especially the difference between how they see themselves and how the other sister sees them. There's some envy and resentment, but there's also love and forgiveness. More than anything else, I loved this depiction of vulnerability, fear, second chances and new beginnings.

Whether you're at the beach or not, there's no wrong time to read The Lake Season. It took a bit of time before I was invested in the characters, and I had a few issues with certain storylines, but I really liked it overall. I'd recommend it for the way it explores the complex nature of family and the comfort of going home.

So Quotable
"Friends had warned her about the fatigue. About the mood swings, and the monotony. But they'd also warned her about the fierce love that would pull her through."
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

3 comments:

  1. After reading your thoughts on The Lake Season, Hannah, I'm more convinced than ever that this is a book that'll definitely appeal to me on a personal level! You make it sound absolutely lovely, and I'm certainly partial to the fact that it's about sisters and it does explore the dynamic between them. I honestly can't wait to read it!

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  2. I'm so glad that you reviewed this! I had the exact same reaction. LOVED the cover, wasn't drawn in by the summary. While it sounds like a good book, I think you've convinced me to pass on it :) Thank you!

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  3. I think what interests me about this one is that it reminds me a bit of me and my brother. I'm definitely the more traditional one and he's much more into doing things his own way. I hadn't heard of this one before and do love the cover, so it some ways I think this may be one looking into more.

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