Book Review: The Lake Season by Hannah McKinnon

“Set in the weeks leading up to an idyllic New England wedding, this “enticing and refreshing” (Nancy Thayer, New York Times bestselling author) novel sparkles with wry wit, sweet romance, and long-kept family secrets.

Iris Standish has always been the responsible older sibling: the one with the steady marriage, loving family, and sensible job. But all of a sudden, as her carefully-constructed life spins out of her control, a cryptic postcard from her estranged sister Leah arrives at the perfect time: Please Come. Iris seizes her chance to escape to her childhood lakeside home, where Leah is planning her summer wedding to a man their New Hampshire clan has never met.

Against a backdrop of dress fittings, floral arrangements, and rehearsal dinners, Leah hides secrets of her own. And while her sister faces a past that has finally caught up to her, Iris prepares to say good-bye to a future that is suddenly far from certain. As new love beckons and Hampstead Lake shimmers in the background, Iris must decide when to wade in cautiously and when to dive—and, ultimately, how to ferry herself to safe harbors in this enticing novel of second chances and the ties that bind.”

This is the second book I have read in as many weeks where the heart of the story revolves around sisterhood, its ups and downs and a wedding although, unlike the previous romantic comedy, this one has a slight bit of darkness at its core and is more than just a fluffy beach read.

In The Lake Season Hannah McKinnon brings us a story about the complicated relationship between the two very different Standish sisters, Iris and Leah.

Told from the viewpoint of Iris, at the beginning of the novel we see her trying to come to terms with the fact that her marriage to Paul, barren of all intimacy and communication, is over. When a postcard from Leah arrives with just two words: Please Come, she fears the worst, knowing that Leah has always been the irresponsible one and makes plans for her children to attend camp so that she can head to her childhood home to offer some support while Leah plans her wedding. However, when she gets there it’s as if Leah has forgotten that she wrote that postcard.

Keeping her own pain and emotional turmoil to herself, she goes out of her way to lend a hand and an ear, sometimes to her own detriment, and as the days progress, finds herself drawn to a friend from school, Cooper Woods.

But her family is keeping secrets from her and, if there is anything that she is going to learn over this summer it’s that life is full of challenges, relationships (no matter who they’re between) are complicated and should never be taken at face-value, that sometimes our lives don’t pan out the way we plan and that blood is definitely thicker than water. She will also learn to stand up for herself in the face of adversity and realise that no matter how hard you try to help someone, they have to want to be helped in the first place.

I only just finished reading this book at the beginning of the week but I couldn’t wait to get my thoughts onto paper. I'm most amazed that this is a debut adult novel because Hannah McKinnon’s writing is beautiful and nostalgic and penned with the confidence of a writer who is well-versed in her craft.

Life is full of imperfect relationships, not least of all the sometimes tenuous one between siblings and parents, and I think that Ms McKinnon has captured this well. From harbouring petty jealousies, the shifting love between parents and their children, the quiet desperation of a marriage in crisis, the consequences of unrequited love and trying to find happiness within ourselves, she encapsulates every angle and the layers are slowly unfolded.

With plenty of drama to keep you reading, complex characters who are not always likeable, family secrets and an idyllic setting that will warm your toes, this is a thought-provoking story about hope, healing and coming home and I can’t wait to see where Ms McKinnon takes me next.

I wish to thank the publisher, Atria Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster), for providing me with an eGalley proof of this book.

About the Author

At the age of eight, Hannah attended her first young author's conference in Mrs. Meyer's third grade class. She was never the same since.  

Hannah attended Skidmore and Connecticut College, where she received her BA.  She later traveled overseas to South Australia, where she earned her MA in Education. Upon returning home, she  spent ten years teaching elementary students the joy of literature. After starting her family, she decided it was time to write some of her own. 

Her first two young adults novels, 'Franny Parker' and 'The Properties of Water' were published in 2009 and 2010, respectively, with FSG/MacMillan.

After signing with Trident Media,  Hannah joined the esteemed team of Emily Bestler Books at Simon and Schuster.

Her next novel, Back to You and Me is due to be published in 2016.


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