Back in her childhood home after years abroad, a woman discovers mysteries around her father's death.
Deception is at the heart of Kim Edwards' much-anticipated second novel, just as it was in her earlier book, "The Memory Keeper's Daughter." In "The Lake of Dreams," Edwards features 30-year-old Lucy Jarrett, a hydrologist. As the narrative begins, Lucy is summoned home from Japan, where she is living with her boyfriend, Yoshi. She flies to upstate New York, to her fictional hometown of Lake of Dreams, "a town [with] a reputation for being exclusive and rather snooty, for holding itself -- the purity of its waters and the beauty of its village -- above the other lakes and villages nearby."
We learn that Lucy is still haunted by her father's death in a fishing accident more than a decade earlier, an obsession that seems to overshadow her reunion with her mother and brother. Too predictably, Lucy seeks out her high school boyfriend, Keegan, now a successful glass artist and a respected man in town. Edwards raises the inevitable question: Will Lucy be swept off her feet by the divorced Keegan, or will she remain faithful to Yoshi, who plans to visit soon?
While rambling around her childhood home, Lucy discovers -- locked in a window seat -- objects that eventually reveal the existence of a woman born in 1895, Rose Jarrett, her great-grandfather's sister. Lucy had never heard of Rose. One of the hidden treasures is a delicate, silvery-white embroidered cloth. A note accompanying the tapestry says simply, "Dearest, This was fashioned for you with love."
Little by little, Lucy's diligence uncovers the unsettling facts of Rose's life; all indicate that she had been a woman of courage and passion. When she was 16, Rose gave birth to a daughter, Iris, a child she was forced to abandon. Though she never possessed money or status, Rose was a dedicated suffragette -- going to prison for the cause -- and a model to one of the era's foremost stained-glass artists. About Rose and Iris, Lucy relates, "Close up their lives were as complex and chaotic as my own, full of mistakes and disappointments and good intentions gone awry."
During her research into Rose, Lucy finds evidence of deception in her own family when she stumbles on papers connecting her great-grandfather's will and her father's death.
Edwards' prose is precise and vivid throughout and at times her descriptions positively soar. Does "The Lake of Dreams" measure up to "The Memory Keeper's Daughter"? No. But judged on its own merits, it is an excellent novel.