The Lake of Dreams

What do you know about your great-grandparents? Skeletons in your closet? Research into genealogy has become popular, with internet searches, even DNA connections to the past.  In The Lake of Dreams, Kim Edwards uses the promise of a concealed family black sheep as the key to a modern dilemma involving environment, culture, land development, and a family legacy.

Flying back from Indonesia to the old family homestead to check on her mother’s condition after a car accident, Lucy Jarrett finds herself uncomfortably in a world she thought she had left behind and in the middle of a mystery.  Edwards introduces so many characters so quickly, it can be hard to keep them straight, but it’s best to just plow through and look for the clues.  Old missing relatives, high-school sweethearts, suffragettes, glass-blowers, lock pickers, and stained-glass window artists  – all craftily combined to lead you to the great revelation.

Throughout the story, Lucy battles her own memories while yearning to unlock how her past will shape her future.  The search for Rose, her great-aunt, and Rose’s daughter Iris, leads Lucy to old letters and a hidden family lineage that connects her to the historical fight for women’s rights.

But this is mainly a saga of family relationships, with that soap opera glue that is hard to resist.  Kim Edwards flavors the mystery with squabbling brothers, displaced inheritance, disgrace, jealousy, greed, and lovers.

The plot is intricate and complicated, like the symbolic interwoven spheres and vines in the story, but just when you want her to get on with it, Edwards gives you the gift of a resolution – before plunging you into the next crisis. Her extensive descriptions and philosophical comments weigh down the story; some could easily be skipped.  Yet, without her finessing of the language, the book would not be as good.

She saw it, emerging slowly from the mouth of the shadow, and laughed, reaching for the sky as babies will, as if she could grasp the moon in one small hand and slip it into her mouth like a wafer.

And look for the cameo reference to Edwards’ first novel, the Memory Keeper’s Daughter – another good book about family secrets…

“…she put the paperback facedown…I glimpsed an ethereal baby dress against a background of black…”

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