Sunday, May 25, 2014

"Black Bear Lake" by Leslie Liautaud

Black Bear Lake
by Leslie Liautaud

Black Bear Lake is currently on tour with Worldwind Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Adam Craig, a forty year-old stock trader in Chicago, finds his marriage teetering on the rocks and his life at a standstill. Desperate and on the edge of personal collapse, Adam takes the advice of a therapist and travels to his childhood family compound on Black Bear Lake with hopes of making peace with his past. Stepping onto the northern Wisconsin property, he relives the painful memories of the summer of 1983, his last summer at the lake.
In August 1983, a self-conscious fifteen year-old Adam carries a world of worry on his shoulders as he arrives at Black Bear Lake for a month long family reunion. Between anger and fear of mother’s declining health as she quietly battles a quickly spreading cancer and his cherished cousin’s depression over her parents’ bitter divorce, Adam is swept up in smothering familial love among the multiple generations and heartbreaking misunderstanding and betrayal. The arrival of a sensual but troublesome babysitter throws the delicate balance of his family into a tailspin. Blinded by his attraction to the newcomer, Adam fails to see his cousin's desperate cries for help and the charged electrical current running through his family's hierarchy. Crushed in the middle of it all, Adam is forced to learn that there's a fine line between self-preservation and the strength of family blood, all the while unaware of the impending tragedy that will ultimately change his life forever.

Some of My Favorite Lines
"My parents, both writers, were continual in their quiet celebration of my love of literature."
About the women in the family: "They were their own clan, set apart from the boys and men. It was an intangible relationship. The weight and mass so undeniable but at the same time so elusive it slipped through my fingers before I could grasp int. I watched my mom and ached for this bond with her."
"I etched the moment in my mind. I held this scene of perfect normalcy in my heart like a delicate glass snow globe and, then I willed the mind game of nothing-is-wrong to return."
"Sitting with Dannie, feeling the heat from her back while her muscles relaxed against me, felt like home."
"Mom used to read to us before bed. Everything except 'kid books'. she said if our minds were going to soak up knowledge like a sponge, she wanted us soaking up something valuable."
"... it struck me one night that there are only so many words out there. It's not like they go on indefinitely. So, why is some writing so beautiful, so lyrical and rhythmic, like music? And some just puts you to sleep?" (This is SO true!)
"Dannie and I looked at each other, both lost in the wonder of how life would be if we were not constantly caught in the spider web of family entanglement."
"Whether you know it or not, the things you are learning right now at fifteen years old will shape who you become, the decisions you will make, the path you will take."
"To see death, to see it in person, to see the soul leaving a body ... it changes you. [...] Death becomes the thing that shapes you."
About mothers: "They cannot lose a child. This we have to protect them from. It is our duty, the one thing we can be stronger about. Because when a mother loses a child, a part of her dies too."
About acting: "How hard is it? I mean, it's pretty much a bunch of people who get done up by a make up artist and are filmed being beautiful, right?"
"My world, made up of letters, sentences and structure to explain every thought and feeling, came crashing down. For the first time, there were no words."

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
Adam can't commit to having a baby with his wife Julie. With his marriage on the line, his therapist Dr Marchand thinks it's time he confronts his past. So Adam travels back to Brown Bear Lake where a life-changing incident occurred twenty-five years earlier in 1983, when he was fifteen.
We are taken back to a month-long vacation with his extended Polish-Italian family, including Adam's distant cousin Dannie. We are treated to an idyllic summer filled with family, good food, drinking, clever pranks, singing around the bonfire, volleyball tournaments, fishing, and sexual discovery. All the while, we feel the darker undercurrents of a failed marriage, a dying family member, extra-marital affairs, family arguments, a wild bear, and a final tragedy that will make this Adam's last summer at Black Bear Lake.
The story starts off in 2008, but flashes back to when Adam meets Julie. We are then treated to an extended flashback to 1983. There are even flashbacks within this flashback. While mostly well-told, I found Gramps' 1939 war-time flashback to be particularly stiff and unemotional, especially given the subject matter. There are numerous editing errors including capitalization, punctuation, word repetition, incorrect word placement, and missing words. There are also so many relatives to keep track of that the author herself uses the incorrect name a couple of times.
While reading the book, I felt the story contained too much about the family vacation. There were too many events, the pranks were fun but irrelevant, and there were too many names to remember. I kept expecting something to happen, but nothing did. Until it did. All is forgiven. I can now see how the story fits together. Everything is relevant. And on top of that, the writing is beautiful. Stick with it and you will be rewarded.
Warnings: underage drinking, sex, swearing, violence.

About the Author
Leslie Liautaud is the author of the stage plays Midnight Waltzes (2006), He Is Us (2008), The Wreck (2009), SALIGIA (2011), The Mansion (2012), and Summer Nights and Dreams (2012). She is also the author of the coming-of-age novel, BlackBear Lake (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2014).
Leslie is originally from Kansas City, Missouri, where she worked in the performing arts. Currently, she divides her time between Key Largo, Florida, and Champaign, Illinois, with her husband, three teenage children and three rambunctious dogs.