Happy Thursday, Reading Nook!
Today, I'm reviewing The Lake Season by Hannah McKinnon.
It's a thoughtful, lovely examination of how one woman learns to love herself in the face of marital adversity, and take risks in the pursuit for personal happiness.
It's also an elegant study of sisterly rivalry and familal forgiveness, and how two sisters mutally recognize that the grass isn't always greener on the opposite side of the road.
Paperback, 384 pages
Published June 2nd 2015 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Format read: Finished copy via publisher
McKinnon's insightful look at the lives of Iris and Leah, will strike a chord with anyone who has ever wondered whether the grass is greener on the opposite side of the fence, and eventually discovering the honest reality.
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).
Hannah McKinnon introduces us to Iris, a woman who is in the throes of a personal crisis. Her marriage is fraying at the edges, and she's now struggling to find a way to move forward. So when a postcard arrives from Iris's impetuous younger sister Leah, summoning her back to their childhood home in advance of Leah's wedding, Iris decides to take a break and return to her hometown.
As Iris deals with wedding preparations, and the challenges that come with returning home after a long time away, she begins to learn that finding personal happiness is something that is absolutely within her reach. But like all things in life, it's up to Iris to fight for what she wants, especially after she learns about the existence of some long-hidden family secrets.
Although stories of protagonists who return to childhood homes are fairly commonplace in contemporary fiction, it's McKinnon's approach to The Lake Season that makes it stand out for all of the right reasons.
While Iris's return to Hampstead is initially motivated by her desire to break away from the tension at home, McKinnon quickly shows how Iris takes the initiative to turn the trip into an opportunity for self-discovery. Iris reaches out to family and old friends, recognizing that while she was trying to do right by her husband, her friends and family have changed and grown. And it's now up to her to catch up, and use that happiness to grow.
Part of that catching up involves Cooper, a former high school crush who immediately reawakens Iris's feelings. Though Iris's journey could have easily fallen into the stereotypical route of woman-leaves-behind-ex-and-falls-immediately-for-old-crush, but McKinnon plots a far more thoughtful, introspective course for Iris and Cooper.
Both Iris and Cooper have previous relationship challenges that they need to exhume before progressing with their romance, and McKinnon smartly shows Iris's struggles between pursuing her own heart, and wanting to maintin the responsbilities of motherhood. It's a fantastic study on the challenges on what it means to be a modern woman and a mother in love, and I think that readers will absolutely relate to Iris's evolution.
Outside of Iris and Cooper's relationship, McKinnon's dissection of Iris and Leah's relationship is both a nice look at sibling rivalry, and a firm reminder on how rivalry can can sometimes get in the way of a more mature understanding, and it's on both parties to change for a stronger relationship.
Ultimately, while Iris journey is a complex one, and doesn't have all the happy endings that we could hope for, it's an introspective study on taking charge in one's own life, and the results that may come from that independence.
McKinnon's thoughtful, explorative study on what it takes to find the strength to break free from years of practiced tradition, will undoubtedly create an emotional bond between the reader and Iris while reading. Iris's evolution to find her personal satisfaction is a universal one, and readers will undboutedly see a little bit of themsevles in her, as she explores what makes her happy and what she ultimately wants out of life.
I highly, highly recommend this book for all readers, but especially for readers who are looking for contemporary fiction that understands the challenges of modern relationships, and what it means to find true redemption and happiness.