The Secrets of Lake Road by Karen Katchur
Pub. Date: August 4, 2015
Source: ARC + finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Thomas Dunne Books!!)
Summary: Jo has been hiding the truth about her role in her high school boyfriend’s drowning for sixteen years. Every summer, she drops her children off with her mother at the lakeside community where she spent summers growing up, but cannot bear to stay herself; everything about the lake reminds her of the guilt she feels. For her daughter Caroline, however, the lake is a precious world apart; its familiarity and sameness comforts her every year despite the changes in her life outside its bounds. At twelve years old and caught between childhood and adolescence, she longs to win her mother’s love and doesn’t understand why Jo keeps running away.
Then seven-year-old Sara Starr goes missing from the community beach. Rescue workers fail to uncover any sign of her—but instead dredge up the bones Jo hoped would never be discovered, shattering the quiet lakeside community’s tranquility. Caroline was one of the last people to see Sara alive on the beach, and feels responsible for her disappearance. She takes it upon herself to figure out what happened to the little girl. As Caroline searches for Sara, she uncovers the secrets her mother has been hiding, unraveling the very foundation of everything she knows about herself and her family.
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Recommended for: fans of Lisa Scottoline and Diane Chamberlain
I’m all for cheering on local authors…even when the definition of ‘local’ requires a bit of stretching. Karen Katchur lives on the eastern side of Pennsylvania, while I’m firmly rooted in Pittsburgh, but I can’t help but show some love to a PA writer, regardless of where in the state we may be. So naturally I readily accepted a review copy when I received the pitch and was even more delighted by the premise: dual eras are totally my jam, especially when there are mysterious circumstances linking the two!
Sixteen years ago Jo and her boyfriend Billy were inseparable, spending every waking moment with each other (and their friends) out at the lake. Then disaster struck: despite being an expert swimmer who lived on the lake his entire life, Billy somehow drowned. Unable to find answers, Jo made a feeble attempt to move on, married a childhood friend, and raised a couple of kids. Each summer her children head back to the community to stay with their grandmother and sixteen years after Billy’s death, a little girl goes missing, sending whispers throughout the cabins. When a rescue mission discovers bones, the once-peaceful community is rocked to the core and the answers Jo had been searching for all these years might finally come to light.
I’m not feeling at all eloquent right now, so I’m VERY tempted to simply say BOOK GOOD. READ NOW. and call it a day. Unfortunately, I don’t think that would fly (though, again, seriously tempted.) Lake Road is told through the eyes of multiple characters, from Jo’s 12-year-old daughter Caroline to Billy’s sister Dee Dee, from the missing girl’s mother to Jo herself. If you know me, you know I am all about multiple narrators so I was one happy camper from the very start! It’s actually pretty on point: the very first paragraph completely drew me in and I was enchanted:
No one touched the bottom of the lake and lived. If you were lucky, you’d surface wide-eyed and frantic, babbling at the darkness, the thickness of what lay below. If you were unlucky, underwater recovery dragged the lake for your body.
How could I say no after that?!
Jo really isn’t the greatest mom. Caroline feels (and certainly is) neglected, having all but given up on trying for some kind of affection, so our view through Caroline’s eyes isn’t exactly the greatest. Even the flashbacks from when Jo was a teen don’t paint a pretty picture, but I think that’s what Katchur intended. There are very, very few likable characters here, but just because they aren’t likable doesn’t mean they weren’t fascinating. I was thoroughly intrigued by each and every character: Kevin’s crush on Jo; a grown-up Pattie (now Patricia) and her severed ties with her soon-to-be ex-husband; sweet, young Adam; Caroline’s bratty (or, rather, your average tween) friend Megan; Jo’s teenage son Johnny. The entire cast was wonderfully fleshed out and I got a wonderful glimpse into their inner workings. So bravo for that, Ms. Katchur!
While the ending was a bit hurried, The Secrets of Lake Road keeps its secrets held close, giving the reader a quick peek every now and then, but ultimately saving the full reveal for its final moments. There was one twist I guessed at that turned out to be correct (and at this point I’m not quite sure it was even supposed to be a big shocker) but several others had me gasping. Quick to pull you in and hard to put down, The Secrets of Lake Road is a thrilling read sure to delight and I highly recommend it!