Monday, April 16, 2012
Review: On Mystic Lake
On Mystic Lake by Kristin Hannah
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The jacket blurb on the edition I read of On Mystic Lake touted it as Kristin Hannah's "hardcover debut," which is not the same as her debut novel. Until I reread the jacket description and saw that it was just her first hardcover, not her first novel, I had thought it exceptionally well-written for a first book. As a later work, though, it was still a strong book with a lot to recommend it.
There are a lot of repeating themes in the books of Kristin Hannah's I've read, and they show up here. The close mother-daughter bond is between Annie Colwater and her daughter, Natalie, who's leaving for a semester in London when the book opens. As they're pulling into the driveway, Annie's husband of 20 years, Blake, tells Annie he's in love with another woman, and wants a divorce. She goes to her childhood home way up in Washington state to recover, and meets an old friend who's even worse off than she is. His wife, her childhood best friend, killed herself eight months before, and he's been struggling with the guilt and subsequent alcoholism, while trying to raise their daughter, ever since. Annie is happy to have a project to keep her mind off her husband, and even happier to have another little girl to take care of, with how much she misses her own.
Kristin Hannah's books take place in the kind of world where awful, terrible, traumatic things happen, but where healing is possible, and where answers to deep emotional scars can be as pat as coming to your senses one day. Generally, the books follow the journey to that realization, which often means things have to get worse before they can improve. At the end of the day, though, people are going to get the happy ever after they deserve.
In this book, I would've liked to have read more of that happy ever after, and less of the main character's speculation about how it'll go. I would've liked to have seen it played out as more than a fantasy.
Overall, though, I found this book to be a touching, emotional journey where we explore love and loss and grief and recovery, and come out okay on the other side. I like that Kristin Hannah rarely writes about easy problems or simple solutions, but ones that require growth to overcome. Her later books make the direction of that growth less obvious to the reader, but this earlier book is still worth the read.
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