On a forced break from her job as a detective in London, Sadie Sparrow stays with her widowed grandfather in his new home in Cornwall and literally runs across an abandoned estate that piques her curiosity. She starts asking around about the house and its occupants, fascinated by the state of the home — it’s furnished and seems to have been abandoned only temporarily, though it’s clear the house has been empty of occupants for ages. Sadie learns that seven decades earlier, a baby went missing the night of the family’s yearly midsummer party and was never found. In part because the story is so intriguing and in part because of the pain she’s avoiding dealing with on a couple of fronts, she sets about to put together the pieces of the mystery.
Alice Edevane grew up at the lake house and absolutely adored it, but the tragedy of her missing baby brother has kept her from her idyllic childhood home. She has spent decades as a successful, prolific mystery writer, but she doesn’t welcome Sadie popping up out of nowhere asking questions about this very personal mystery.
The stories of Alice and Sadie in this century and of Alice; her mother, Eleanor; and her family decades earlier alternate throughout The Lake House, bit by bit filling in the complete picture of the truth of what happened and why. Secrets are revealed, characters and motives are fleshed out, and the mystery slowly is solved for the characters and for the reader. It’s satisfying as a mystery but is much more: its characters are richly drawn, their heartaches and challenges so painfully real. They have such love and so much potential for happiness, but life throws up its curves, and they stumble. They sacrifice, they make hard choices. They make mistakes and pay for them, dearly. It’s a wonderful story of families and what they will do for each other. The ending, though not entirely a surprise to me, was still so sweet and poignant my heart was full and my eyes nearly spilling over.
Kate Morton is a master at crafting these kinds of novels: long and richly detailed stories of family secrets that span generations and decades, that have long-reaching consequences. This latest seems to be to be her best so far. As I reluctantly and slowly closed the back cover, I was overcome by that sadly delicious, mixed feeling of completion that means a book has brought me much gratification as I’ve taken it all in but regret that the experience is over and can’t be duplicated.
Rated: Mild, for occasional mild and moderate language, mild references to violence involving war and murder, and references to sexual affairs but very little detail.