The Lake of Dreams
by Kim Edwards
A wonderful book! Just as beautifully written as The Memory Keeper's Daughter, but with a much more credible plot. It starts out with the American Lucy, and the Japanese Yoshi, scientists who have been together for two years, living in Indonesia and then Japan. She goes home to the Finger Lakes area of New York when she learns her mother has been injured, and he plans to join her after fulfilling some professional commitments.
When she gets home she finds some complicated family relationships that developed after her father's drowning several years before. Her mother talks of selling the house Lucy grew up in, to Lucy's discomfort. They start going through papers from the attic and find a mystery involving a great-great aunt who was never mentioned in the family. Lucy pursues it and discovers a scandal, and digs some more. She is also tempted by the chemistry that remains between her and her now-divorced high school beau, a glass artist whose work ultimately ties into the mystery.
The unwinding of all the plot threads here is quite satisfying and enjoyable. My only complaint is the predictability of one of the important plot elements that I think the author meant to be a surprise. The characters are beautifully drawn, mostly likable, each unique and completely credible.
Bravo, Kim Edwards! I'll be looking forward to more from you.
Lives and Letters
by Robert Gottlieb
As one would expect from an editor (The New Yorker, Simon & Schuster, Knopf, etc.) this collection of short pieces (mostly 4-7 pages) is superbly written. (Gottlieb complains of sloppy writing and gives examples. I applaud!) Most of the essays are reviews of one or more biographies of the essay's subject; some are personal reminiscences. The subjects range from Rudolph Valentino, Isadora Duncan, Douglas Fairbanks, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Porfirio Rubirosa, Katharine Hepburn, the Windsors, and Elia Kazan, to James Thurber, Rudyard Kipling, and John Steinbeck. I didn't read all the pieces, partly because it's a hardbound library book and I'm leaving for Costa Rica tomorrow (dental tourism), and partly because they didn't all interest me to the same degree. (Check the book's TOC on amazon for the complete list of biographies.) If a complex and fascinating life can be summed up in a few paragraphs, Gottlieb is the man to do it.
Example: "The extraordinary thing about John Steinbeck is how good he can be when most of the time he's so bad." A critique with which I agree wholeheartedly!
At a minimum, this is worth a browse in a bookstore.
This, and the previous review, are quoted from my reviews at goodreads.com. There are lots more reviews there from me and others. (Sign-up and friend status required; free.)