By Abi Maxwell
Knopf Publishing Group, Hardcover, 9780307961655, 209pp.
Publication Date: February 19, 2013
A haunting, luminous debut novel set in a small New Hampshire town: the story of the crisscrossing of lives, within and without family, and of one woman, given up for adoption as a baby, searching for the truth about her life.
As an infant, Alice Thorton was discovered in Kettleborough, New Hampshire, in a boathouse by the lake; adopted by a young, childless couple; raised with no knowledge of the women who came before her: Eleonora, who brought her family to Bear Island, the nearly uninhabitable scrap of land in Kettleborough’s lake; Signe, the maiden aunt who nearly drowned in the lake, ashamed of her heart; Sophie, the grandmother who turned a blind eye to her unwanted granddaughter. Alice grows up aching for an acceptance she can’t quite imagine, trying to find it first with an older man, then with one who can’t love her back, and finally in the love she feels for one she has never met. And all the while she feels a mysterious pull to the lake. As Alice edges ever closer to her past, Lake People beautifully evokes the interweaving of family history and individual fate, and the intangible connections we feel to the place where we were born.
“A stunning book that captivated me completely. Maxwell, who grew up in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, has penned a haunting novel . . . A beautiful offering from a talented local writer who shows enormous promise as a first-rate novelist.” —Paul Collins, Nashua Telegraph
“Abi Maxwell’s first novel is a controlled and skillfully executed story of a troubled family history and of one young woman’s search for identity. . . . Emotionally penetrating . . . The novel’s central locale—the town’s unnamed lake— is as much a character as any human. . . . [Lake People] is redolent of the secrets that haunt small-town life and exposes the class differences that are as sharp there as anywhere. It’s equally perceptive in describing Alice’s attempt to find meaningful romantic relationships, a struggle that feels rooted in her early abandonment. . . . [T]here’s a plain-spoken quality to Maxwell’s writing that at least suggests comparison to authors like Marilynne Robinson and Alice Munro. Lake People is an evocative novel that creates a melancholic mood from the first page and sustains it throughout without succumbing to despair. That’s an impressive gift and one that bodes well for this writer’s future work.” —Harvey Freedenberg, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“In Lake People, Abi Maxwell gives a nod to a certain counter-culture; Cici, from whom Maxwell's protagonist, Alice, inherits a cabin on an island in a New Hampshire lake, is a former hippie who mysteriously appears in a small town . . . Maxwell's landscape, though, is not modern culture but traditional folklore. . . . The natural world in Maxwell's novel is perverse . . . and people offer no protection or solace. . . . Secrets are kept, secrets are told: no one ever fails to remind Alice that her background is suspect, her very existence a source of pain. In such an environment, she must find some method of embracing the world that will diminish its power. Her primary strategy is to employ a style of thought and discourse that turns experiences into myths and locales into symbols (Lake Country, Hill Country, The Village). When it comes to details of light and landscape, Alice is beautifully precise.” —Jane Smiley, Harper’s
“Full of missing family, Maxwell’s debut novel begins and ends with Alice. . . . Though the reader knows the secret of Alice’s birth from the start, recognizing hints throughout her childhood, Alice doesn’t find out she was adopted until her mid-twenties. Yet she feels the relentless pull of the lake and the boathouse where she was first found. Maxwell’s writing has a whispery, brooding, atmospheric feel that conveys Alice’s fragility while capturing both the lushness of the region and its claustrophobic effect on Alice. . . . Compelling.” —Pamela Mann, Library Journal
“A powerful sense of place pervades Maxwell’s accomplished . . . debut. The novel tells the bittersweet tale of Alice Thorton . . . and the potent history of the women in her birth family. . . . Luminous.” —Allison Block, Booklist
“I read this novel almost without stopping—it’s a riveting book, with quiet lyrical power. It’s also inventive, wonderfully strange, hard-headed, and genuinely enchanting. A very impressive debut.” —Joan Silber, author of National Book Award finalist Ideas of Heaven
“Abi Maxwell’s beautifully imagined debut novel tells the story of Alice Thorton’s search for the truth about her past and the mysterious lake that calls her home. Woven with secrets, danger, and a family history both magical and dark, Lake People held me spellbound until the last haunting page.” —Amy Greene, author of Bloodroot
“Lake People is one of the most astonishing novels I have read in a decade. Abi Maxwell steps into the literary world with a book that rivals Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping.” —Debra Magpie Earling, author of Perma Red
“Lake People is intricate, lovely and wise. Abi Maxwell trusts her stories and her talent, and the result is that rarity among first novels—one that possesses the substance and burnish of a classic.” —Deirdre McNamer, author of Red Rover