In the summer of 1935, six-year-old Emily Evans vanishes from her family’s vacation home on a remote Minnesota lake. Her disappearance destroys her mother, who spends the rest of her life at the lake house, hoping in vain that her favorite daughter will walk out of the woods. Emily’s two older sisters stay, too, each keeping her own private, decades-long vigil for the lost child. Sixty years later Lucy, the quiet and watchful middle sister, lives in the lake house alone. Before she dies, she writes the story of that devastating summer in a notebook that she leaves, along with the house, to the only person to whom it might matter: her grandniece, Justine. For Justine, the lake house offers a chance to escape her manipulative boyfriend and give her daughters the stable home she never had. But it’s not the sanctuary she hoped for. The long Minnesota winter has begun. The house is cold and dilapidated, the frozen lake is silent and forbidding, and her only neighbor is a strange old man who seems to know more than he’s telling about the summer of 1935. Soon Justine’s troubled oldest daughter becomes obsessed with Emily’s disappearance, her mother arrives with designs on her inheritance, and the man she left behind launches a dangerous plan to get her back. In a house steeped in the sorrows of the women who came before her, Justine must overcome their tragic legacy if she hopes to save herself and her children.
You can’t imagine how much I loved this. Ever since I read the blurb, I knew I had to get my hands this book as soon as possible. Fortunately, the publishers sent me a copy via Edelweiss and I devoured the book in just one day.
Both the plot and the structure reminded me of Kate Morton’s books, which is always a good sign (I absolutely love Kate Morton). Change the English setting for Minnesota and voilà: you have the perfect book filled with mystery, family secrets, disappearances and a big, beautiful house in the middle of nowhere.
It’s 1935 and Lucy, 11, and her family can’t wait to spend the summer in their vacation home in Minnesota. Lucy adores her big sister Lilith, but she seems to be drifting apart from her and thinking only about boys and makeup. She doesn’t want to spend her afternoons with her little sister Emily, because she’s way too young for her. But then, at the end of the summer, Emily suddenly disappears and her two older sisters decide to spend the rest of their lives at that isolated home, with her mother. 60 years later, Lucy thinks it’s finally time to write about what really happened that summer…
I want to say that this is not one of those books where the “crime” takes place at the beginning and you spend the rest of the book trying to figure out how it happened. This is a dual novel about an unforgettable summer in 1935 and, at the same time, a story about a woman and her two daughters trying to start over.
And yes, undoubtedly, the “past” narration was more interesting than the present one (because who can resist a book about an ideal summer gone wrong?), but I still wanted to know what happened to Justine, Melanie and Angela (and Maurie), the family who inherits the big house in the lake.
Heather Young has masterfully crafted a beautiful, compelling, dark story that makes you dream about the perfect summer in a Minnesota lake and, at the same time, is capable of giving you chills when you finally discover the secrets that lay beneath. I know I won’t forget this tale: it will definitely stay with me for a very long time. Don’t you love when that happens?
Finally, I don’t know about you, but I’m still waiting for that call to tell me that I’ve inherited a big house filled with family secrets. I know most dream about a Hogwarts letter, but this is what I actually want 😁