Today’s team review is from Noelle. She blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com
Noelle has been reading The Boy And The Lake by Adam Pelzman
Coming of age, teenage love, adolescence in a Jewish community, the social upheavals of the 1960s, murder mystery – all of these themes are woven together in The Boy and the Lake and set against a luminously described backdrop of life on a lake.
Sixteen-year-old Benjamin Baum is fishing from a dock on his beloved New Jersey lake, feet dangling in the water and the sounds of people having fun echoing across the water, when the bloated body of his next door neighbor Helen floats to the surface. Her loss shakes his world and he stubbornly refuses to believe she died by accident, searching for clues to her death in the insular Jewish middle class community that lives around the lake.
His mother, Lillian, is a narcissistic and emotionally unpredictable woman with a punishing attitude toward both Ben and his long-patient father, Abe. Ben is detached from his mother but clearly understands what makes her tick. He loves his father, who is hardworking and caring physician, practicing in Newark, and an enabler of Lillian’s behavior. These three have all been affected differently by the early death of Ben’s younger sister. They normally come to the lake only in the summer, but with the increasing tension and fear from the Newark riots in 1967, the family decides move to there. Ben continues to infuriate both family and friends, especially one exceptional friend and budding love named Missy, with his unwelcome search to discover how Helen died.
As time passes, fractures and truths appear in the people populating Ben’s world, and he comes to realize that the prosperity and contentment he associates with the lake community is not what is seems to be. The complexity and depth of these relationships, drawn by the author in a compelling way, keeps the reader turning the pages, following as Ben grows in maturity and understanding while maneuvering through a variety of social situations that challenge the gawky teenager.
The author is a wonderful story teller. Ben comes across as a typical teenager for that time (one which I remember), with his mother alternating between a practical housekeeper and unlikeable shrew. I felt deep sorrow for the long-suffering Abe but also the love Ben’s grandparents have for him and which he reciprocates. Even the lake develops a personality. He has created in exquisite detail the ambiance of a lake in summer that brought back some memories of my own, the push and pull and occasional pain of Ben’s family, and the darker undercurrents that Ben discovers in the surrounding community. The historical detail is spot on. The reader becomes emotionally invested in Ben, his plans for the future, and his awkward interactions with, and his growing admiration and affection for, Missy.
The twists and turns kept me reading quickly. I will warn potential readers, though, this book is more character-drive than a murder mystery – there are large sections where Helen’s death is not in play – even though a death opens the book and a tragedy ends it.
I recommend this book for what it is and will definitely read more by this author.
Set against the backdrop of the Newark riots in 1967, a teenage Benjamin Baum leaves the city to spend the summer at an idyllic lake in northern New Jersey. While fishing from his grandparents’ dock, the dead body of a beloved neighbor floats to the water’s surface—a loss that shakes this Jewish community and reveals cracks in what appeared to be a perfect middle-class existence. Haunted by the sight of the woman’s corpse, Ben stubbornly searches for clues to her death, infuriating friends and family who view his unwelcome investigation as a threat to the comfortable lives they’ve built. As Ben’s suspicions mount, he’s forced to confront the terrifying possibility that his close-knit community is not what it seems to be—that, beneath a façade of prosperity and contentment, darker forces may be at work.
In The Boy and the Lake, Adam Pelzman has crafted a riveting coming-of-age story and a mystery rich in historical detail, exploring an insular world where the desperate quest for the American dream threatens to destroy both a family and a way of life.