REVIEW: Find yourself at ‘Lost Lake’

Sarah Addison Allen’s latest another treat
Jan. 19, 2014 @ 12:52 PM

Sarah Addison Allen, the Asheville author whose novels are set in familiar Southern places – mostly imagined, but familiar all the same – is back with a wonderful new book. “Lost Lake” is set in Georgia, at an aging getaway spot that has been a place of sanctuary, friendship, love, loss, solace and new life.

There’s an image of a woman on the covers of Allen’s other books – “Garden Spells,” “Sugar Queen,” “The Girl Who Chased the Moon” and “The Peach Keeper” – but not on “Lost Lake.” Instead it’s a dreamy, swampy image of a path leading to or from the lake, with lanterns in the trees. It takes readers to Lost Lake itself. It doesn’t need a person on the cover because the book is about more than just one person. There’s Kate, of course, the main character who wakes up after a year mourning her husband and follows a postcard to her aunt’s old lake resort, bringing her young daughter along for what becomes much more than just a visit. The characters of “Lost Lake” could all have books of their own, especially Kate’s Aunt Eby, who we meet before anyone else, and who you’d want to have for your own aunt, too. Lost Lake itself is owned by Eby, started by her and her late husband, George, and Eby is thinking about selling it. That is, until Kate shows up and Eby starts doing inventory. And we meet others who consider the lake and lake-goers family, for different reasons.

Allen’s writing shows she knows us. Us, meaning people in general. Like when she writes sentences like this: “She knew him in that way you can only know a person you remember as a child, like if you cracked away the adult shell, you’d find that child happily sitting inside, smiling at you.”

It’s truth. Or this sentence, which is true enough to cut out and paste somewhere: “She understood that the hardest times in life to go through were when you were transitioning from one version of yourself to another.”

“Lost Lake” is about transitions. Some abrupt, some not. There’s an alligator in the lake, too.

Allen’s work is such a treat because she weaves a tale not quite like anyone else. There are little elements of magic, some light some heavy. Like a cook who seasons just so, she adds flavor but not too much, and serves a satisfying literary meal without making you overstuffed. You leave the table wanting something else, more of the various dishes, in this case minor characters’ stories, like Bulahdeen’s. Allen also released a brief e-book, “Waking Kate,” which gives readers insight into Kate’s marriage that we get through just feelings in “Lost Lake.” Allen could write more stories other characters that would be just as welcomed. Really, anything Allen writes is welcome. “Lost Lake” is a delightful way to spend some time this winter.