Harper, Hardcover, 9780061671166, 448pp.
Publication Date: May 1, 2009
Eula, Idaho, is a cluster of steeples, oak trees, and boxlike homes sandwiched between golden fields and a wide-open sky. It freezes in the winter and bakes in the summer, but the air is so dry that neither extreme gets under your skin. It has never seen a battle, or an earthquake, or a Democrat in City Hall.
Still, life in Eula is anything but simple.
Lina and Connie are single mothers, neighbors in Eula's trailer park. Lina, the daughter of migrant Mexican farm workers, is trying to cope with her angry teenage son JesÚs, newly returned after living with wealthy white foster parents. Connie, long abandoned, struggles with her literal reading of Old Testament laws against remarriage, especially when a handsome missionary visits her congregation. The women's younger sons, Enrique and Gene, are misfits whose mutual love of science offers stability and respite from schoolyard cruelties.
Determined to win the statewide science fair, Enrique and Gene devise an experiment involving "lake overturn," a real scientific phenomenon in which deadly gases collect and eventually erupt from a lake's depths. In their quest to discover if Eula could suffer from such an event, the boys come into contact with an odd assortment of locals, including the frail-hearted school principal with grand ambitions, a rich but lonely lawyer who finds love outside his marriage just as his wife is succumbing to cancer, and a woman tortured by a past of abuse and addiction who decides to turn things around by offering herself as a surrogate mother.
With sweeping perspective and a Victorian wealth of character, Lake Overturn exposes small-town America in all its beauty and treachery, sunshine and secrets.
“Lake Overturn is a lovingly rendered portrait of small-town America. Vestal McIntyre knows his people intimately—how they speak, their manners and customs; but, most importantly, he knows their troubled hearts, and he plumbs the depths of those hearts with remarkable empathy and wisdom.”
-Ron Rash, author of Serena
“A vast, intricate lattice of relationships, reminiscent of the novels of Richard Russo. . . . McIntyre is an honest enough artist that he [is] . . . capable of handling even the most noxious elements when he stirs his American backwater.”
A Best Book of 2009
-Washington Post Book World
“[A] deliriously colorful and deliciously engrossing tapestry of a small-town’s depressing poverty, pointless pettiness, quirky rivalries, domestic infidelities, desperate drug use, onerous class and race divisions – and occasional quiet, sentimental triumphs.”
“Richly imagined and fully realized, Overturn has given us what we didn’t know we were waiting for: the next Great Idahoan Novel.”
“Striking. . . . An author is lucky to bring one character so vividly to life: the gifted McIntyre...has done it for all of his. It may seem odd praise for a writer, but it’s among the highest: as you drink in this book, you barely notice the words.”
-New York Times Book Review
“This astonishing novel — a great big captivating, multi-character drama set in Eula, Idaho — has McIntyre juggling a half-dozen intersecting plots and people with extraordinary grace.”
-Philadelphia Gay News
“Reading Vestal McIntyre’s deliriously ambrosial novel is like entering reader’s heaven. Constantly surprising. . . . I loved it.”
-Peter Cameron, award-winning author of The City of Your Final Destination
“What a great relief [it is] to read Vestal McIntyre’s splendid first novel. . . . Lake Overturn is loving and searing and sad and, above all, a pleasure to read.”
-Adam Haslett, author of You Are Not a Stranger Here
“Every character in [Lake Overturn] is so real, complex, and interesting, the scope of the novel at once so wide and so deep, the themes and ideas so thoroughly embodied by the story, I felt as if I were reading a modern-day Middlemarch.”
-Kate Christensen, PEN/Faulkner Award-winning author of The Great Man
“[A] nicely handled exploration of the world’s effect on the tightly woven life of a small town driven by faith.”
“[Keeps] us engrossed from the beginning. . . . He illuminates with humor and sympathy the mundane lives of a group of vivid characters.”