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This article was published 7/1/2011 (2331 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Lake of Dreams
By Kim Edwards
Viking, 378 pages, $34
AMERICAN author Kim Edwards will be sailing smooth with her second novel.
The Lake of Dreams is a vivid and beautifully written saga about the powerful way that a family's past can shape its present.
Edwards made her literary debut in 2006 with the novel The Memory Keeper's Daughter, about a doctor in 1960s America who hides the existence of his daughter with Down syndrome.
The Memory Keeper's Daughter distinguished Edwards as an author with a talent for beautiful, sinuous prose and an eagerness to tackle universal and serious themes.
Her fans won't be disappointed with her second novel. Though a little long-winded and too heavily metaphorical at times, The Lake of Dreams is as enchanting as her first novel.
In The Lake of Dreams, Edwards tackles the themes of secrets, genealogy and the important role women play in creating history.
Some of her most interesting passages refer to the women's suffrage movement in America and to the history women played in the creation of the Christian church.
The story opens in present-day Japan. Twenty-seven-year-old Lucy Jarrett is feeling unmoored and restless. She's unemployed, and her relationship with her boyfriend has hit a rough patch. She has also been having disturbing dreams about her father's mysterious death nearly 10 years earlier.
So she returns to her fictional hometown, The Lake of Dreams, in upstate New York, hoping that a visit to her mother's lakeside house, home to their family for generations, will revive her spirits and provide her with some guidance.
But then Lucy comes across a stack of old political papers and an heirloom baby blanket hidden in her family's attic.
After linking her findings to recently excavated stained-glass art at a historic church, Lucy discovers a secret branch of family history that she never knew existed, a branch with distinct ties to the American women's suffrage and rights movements.
Lucy embarks on a search for the reasons why this part of her family disappeared from their records.
"I wondered if tracing this story to its source might be a way to settle the restlessness that had been with me since the night my father died," she thinks.
But as Lucy turns up more information about her family history, she realizes that there is more for her to come to terms with -- indeed, revelations with the power to shatter the whole family.
Lucy tells most of the story in first-person, though an ancestor, Rose Jarrett, tells long sections of the story through letters written to her daughter.
Edwards is good at giving her ancestral characters distinct voices, which is good because at times the names of characters and their relationships with each other become confusing.
In fact, there are altogether far too many characters, which makes the reader feel that Edwards was throwing extra ones in for fun, and which water down the development of the important players.
Edwards grew up in the Finger Lakes district of upstate New York, and she draws on her memories well, creating a remarkably detailed description of the region.
Edwards' emphasis on metaphors and symbolism does slow the story down. Readers may also notice that the characters' dialogue tends to be overly long and detailed, so not always realistic. This is especially true of Rose's letters to her daughter.
She also relies too heavily on coincidence and luck in her plot. But in the final analysis, this novel is a dream.
Winnipeg writer Kathryne Cardwell works at the University of Manitoba.