LADIES OF THE LAKE by Cathy Gohlke
GENRE: Historical Fiction (Christian)
PUBLISHER: Tyndale House
RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2023
After two young women’s deep bond is torn apart, what will it take to bring them together again? In Ladies of the Lake, the beloved author of Saving Amelie and Night Bird Calling returns with a transformative new historical novel about the wonder and complexities of friendship, love, and belonging.
When she is forced to leave her beloved Prince Edward Island to attend Lakeside Ladies Academy after the death of her parents, the last thing Adelaide Rose MacNeill expects to find is three kindred spirits. The Ladies of the Lake, as the four girls call themselves, quickly bond like sisters, vowing that wherever life takes them, they will always be there for each other. But that is before: Before love and jealousy come between Adelaide and Dorothy, the closest of the friends. Before the dawn of World War I upends their world and casts baseless suspicion onto the German American man they both love. Before a terrible explosion in Halifax Harbor rips the sisterhood irrevocably apart.
Seventeen years later, Rosaline Murray receives an unsuspecting telephone call from Dorothy, now headmistress of Lakeside, inviting her to attend the graduation of a new generation of girls, including Rosalines beloved daughter. With that call, Rosaline is drawn into a past shed determined to put behind her. To memories of a man she once loved . . . of a sisterhood she abandoned . . . and of the day she stopped being Adelaide MacNeill.
Something that consistently distinguishes a ‘good’ book from a ‘great’ book, for me, is when the redemption thread is so intrinsically connected to the story’s framework that it can’t be removed without damaging the plot structure. Ladies of the Lake by Cathy Gohlke is one such book. From the very beginning, I was swept into this story of irreplaceable friendships, rippling secrets, acute loss, deep love, and grace-filled restoration. I settled in as though it were wrapped around me like a quilt and delighted in putting together the layers that the author revealed piece by piece, intentional in her placement of each connected dot until at long last all the secrets were out in the open.
The narrative switches between first person (for Addie’s POV) and third person (for Dot’s POV) and between the past (1905-1917) and the present day for the same characters – 1935. Gohlke executes these transitions seamlessly, and she uses them to masterfully set the stage for what the story is ever building toward. I also liked how she uses the Halifax explosion of 1917 to mark a clear division between the dual timelines AND the two character narratives. Just as December 6, 1917 became a ‘before and after’ date for all Haligonians, it serves the same purpose in Ladies of the Lake. The poetry of Gohlke’s choice here was not lost on me, and it made me appreciate her writing talent all the more. Speaking of the history, I love reading about history that I rarely see in fiction, especially as it prompts me to learn more about little-talked-about events. To my recollection, I’ve only read one other book that featured the Halifax explosion and one other book that discussed German internment camps in the United States during World War 1.
One of my very favorite parts of this book was the Anne of Green Gables vibe and the real life tie-ins that Gohlke includes in the plot. (She talked on my blog yesterday about how a visit to Prince Edward Island and all things Anne inspired her in writing Ladies of the Lake – read it HERE.) This filled my bookish heart with glee and bonded me as a kindred spirit with Addie especially through the course of this novel. Another favorite aspect for me was how the theme of ‘the family you make’. There are so many times in the story where someone stands in as family for orphaned Addie – and in the process they become family. Mrs. Simmons, Portia, the Meyers, the Potts, and, of course, the ladies of the lake. This was done so poignantly without being super obvious; in fact, this theme in many ways sneaks up on you and wraps you in a hug before you even know it’s there… which is one of the reasons I loved it so.
Bottom Line: Brimming with fascinating & tragic history, Ladies of the Lake is a story that lingers in your heart and stirs up all of your emotions. Layered & compelling characters share the page with soul-tugging themes of friendship, family, and faith, and the dual perspective narratives that span two timelines keep you riveted to the story. In fact, I found myself holding my breath to see how it would all play out in the end. And when that end came, I exhaled with readerly contentment at the poignancy with which Cathy Gohlke ties up all the loose ends and makes beauty from ashes. Another poignantly redemptive story from this author!
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 5 stars / exquisite!
KissingBook Level: 3 / may forget to breathe on occasion
Bestselling, Christy Hall of Fame, and Carol and INSPY Award–winning author Cathy Gohlke writes novels steeped with inspirational lessons, speaking of world and life events through the lens of history. Her stories reveal how people break the chains that bind them and triumph over adversity through faith. When not traveling to historic sites for research, she and her husband, Dan, divide their time between northern Virginia and the Jersey Shore, enjoying time with their grown children and grandchildren. Visit her website at cathygohlke.com and find her on Facebook at CathyGohlkeBooks.
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