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While you wait: Tom Lake While you wait: Tom Lake miranda holding a book - tom lake miranda holding a book - tom lake

While you Wait for Tom Lake

Ann Patchett’s new novel, Tom Lake, begins in the spring of 2020. Did you hear a record scratch sound in your imagination after reading that date? I bet we all remember where we were at that time. In March of that year, COVID-19 swept across the globe. Many of us were isolated at home, people were dying, and no one knew exactly what would happen. I’ll admit I have put aside several books that take place during that time. I have not felt emotionally prepared to go back to those days of fear and stress. That said, I’m so glad that I decided to go ahead with Tom Lake. This book is about family, connection, enduring love and the impact we have on others. It might just be my favorite Patchett yet. I recommend the audiobook narrated by Meryl Streep. She absolutely nailed the narrative voice.

Tom Lake is a story within a story. The first story begins on a small cherry farm in Michigan, where Lara and Joe have welcomed their three daughters home to stay safe during the pandemic. They are also helping bring in the cherry harvest in the absence of available workers. It’s a time of hard work and stress. But it’s also a time for truly getting to know each other in a way that is often hard to do with adult children.

Lara’s daughters learn she once dated a very famous movie star named Peter Duke, and they beg her to tell them the story. Lara gives in, but insists on telling it her way. She begins with the moment in high school when she decided to try out for the part of Emily in her community’s production of Our Town. That role eventually leads her to an unforgettable summer of acting, romance and friendship that changes her life.

The book nestles Lara's coming-of-age narrative in between conversations with her daughters as they react to the story. It also weaves in Lara’s reflections as she thinks about raising her daughters and their futures. This book made me laugh and cry, and made me miss my Mom fiercely. It made me want to write, and to ask questions and listen. Verdict: a beautiful and memorable read I’ll gladly revisit again. While you wait for your copy, check out these reads of family, connection, coming-of-age and storytelling.

Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo

All families are full of stories and secrets. Elizabeth Acevedo’s new novel Family Lore brings a family together for a “living wake.” Flor has a gift for predicting death, to the day. She decides to celebrate her life with a party to bring together family and community, but she doesn’t tell anyone what prompted her. Has she seen a vision of someone’s death? She refuses to tell. Set in the three days before the wake, Family Lore weaves together the past and present stories of sisters and cousins, as they reflect on where they’ve been and dream about where they are going.

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

Black Cake is a journey through the life of a family with Caribbean heritage. The story shows how the inheritance of betrayals, secrets, memories and even names can shape relationships and history. In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett’s death leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny. She leaves them a traditional Caribbean black cake made from a family recipe, and a voice recording she asks them to listen to together.

Eleanor’s recording is a tumultuous story about a headstrong young swimmer who escaped her island home under suspicion of murder. Eleanor’s heartbreak, secrets and the mystery of a long-lost child challenge everything the siblings thought they knew about their family and themselves. Can Byron and Benny piece together Eleanor’s true history? Can they fulfill her final request to “share the black cake when the time is right”? Will their mother’s revelations bring them back together or leave them feeling more lost than ever?

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

Apples Never Fall is a good choice if you want themes similar to Tom Lake delivered in a page-turner. The book begins with a disappearance and ends with a crazy twist I did not see coming. In between it tells a family story with wonderfully developed characters and living, breathing relationships. My favorite part of Apples Never Fall was getting to learn about each of the Delaneys and their interactions with each other. The story has rivalry, resentments, secrets and old wounds. Sometimes the ones we love are also the ones who hurt us the most. I recommend this one on audiobook with Australian narrator Caroline Lee. I love hearing Moriarty’s characters brought to life with an Australian voice.

Our Town by Thornton Wilder

Read the Pulitzer Prize-winning play that inspired Tom Lake and has featured in so many other books, shows and movies. Though published in 1938, this story of small town life in Grover’s Corners is often described by readers as timeless. The film and ebook are available with no holds on Hoopla.
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