From the award-winning author of the acclaimed story collection The Heaven of Animals, called “a wise debut…beautiful [stories] with a rogue touch” (The New York Times Book Review), comes a sweeping, domestic novel about a family that reunites at their North Carolina lake house for one last vacation before the home is sold—and the long-buried secrets that are finally revealed.
The Starling family is scattered across the country. Parents Richard and Lisa live in Ithaca, New York, and work at Cornell University. Their son Michael, a salesperson, lives in Dallas with his elementary school teacher wife, Diane. Michael’s brother, Thad, an aspiring poet, makes his home in New York City with his famous painter boyfriend, Jake. For years they’ve traveled to North Carolina to share a summer vacation at the family lake house.
That tradition is coming to an end, as Richard and Lisa have decided to sell the treasured summer home and retire to Florida. Before they do, the family will spend one last weekend at the lake. But what should to be a joyous farewell takes a nightmarish turn when the family witnesses a tragedy that triggers a series of dramatic revelations among the Starlings—alcoholism, infidelity, pregnancy, and a secret the parents have kept from their sons for over thirty years. As the weekend unfolds, relationships fray, bonds are tested, and the Starlings are forced to reckon with who they are and what they want from this life.
Set in today’s America, Lake Life is a beautifully rendered, emotionally compelling novel in the tradition of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, and Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth.
A family grapples with barely concealed secrets after witnessing a tragedy in Poissant's poignant and beautiful debut novel (after the collection The Heaven of Animals). Retired Cornell math professor Richard Starling and his wife, Lisa, an ornithologist, gather their 30-something sons Thad and Michael for one last hurrah at the family's lake house in North Carolina before the couple sells the house and retires to Florida. After Michael, an alcoholic facing a dry morning with "wings in the skull," fails to save a neighbor boy from drowning, the family struggles to salvage their vacation as the causes of their inner pain rise to the surface. Michael's wife is unexpectedly pregnant despite Michael's long-standing objection to fatherhood; Thad, an underemployed poet, begrudges his open relationship with Jake, a blocked artist; Lisa mourns her firstborn infant daughter lost to SIDS; and Richard worries Lisa is selling the lake house to punish him for an undisclosed affair. As the family members' facades begin to crack, fresh wounds surface and hard decisions are made by each. Poissant demonstrates superb talent for observation, cultivating a familiar, lived-in feeling of the family's lake house, where each character's unique viewpoint emerges powerfully and their everyday interactions gain greater significance. This is a remarkable, moving depiction of a family on the brink.