Book Review

Tom Lake – by Ann Patchett

This is a quietly immersive book that snuck up on me and captivated my heart. I found the framing device very effective- we are in the present with a mother, father, and their three daughters isolating themselves due to the pandemic and hearing the story (which forms the majority of the narrative) of the summer their mother spent at Tom Lake, a summer stock theatre group in Michigan putting on plays. She was the lover of Peter Drake, the confidante of best friend and fellow actress Pallace, and friend of Drake’s brother and Pallace’s lover Sebastian. I read this in two days and every time I picked up the book it was like slipping into a warm bath – the characters were familiar and fascinating, the setting bucolic and summer sunshine, the family in the present day interesting and unique. It felt like a visit with old friends and I never wanted the time to end. The pandemic was there in the background as the reason the family was living together but it never felt intrusive and the peek-behind-the-scenes of a theatre troupe was engaging. And I liked the Our Town motif tying it together – it’s such an iconic play from my growing up years and provided the perfect backdrop for a novel that’s in essence offering up the same message – we never know and appreciate what’s happening in our life while it’s happening – it’s only when we look back that we realize that those days we lived, that time was what life is all about.