In order to win Jane Roper’s novel Eden Lake I had to agree to read the book and participate in the accompanying Goodreads discussion as a part of The Next Best Book Club. I am a finicky reader who has probably put down at least as many books as I’ve begun, and so I wanted to make sure I had a decent chance to like the story okay before I agreed to have it shipped to me. I could already see myself ten pages into 300, not enjoying the read, but having to stay with it because I said I would.
I went to Amazon and checked out the opening pages. I was happy with how things got started: “Just before noon on the morning after Memorial Day, Eric filled the tank of the John Deere, started the engine and rolled out of the barn into broad sunlight.” One of my favorite authors, Richard Ford, often starts books on a holiday (Independence Day, Easter) and there’s a lot competent in Jane’s sentence: it placed me firmly in time and in the sort of setting where there would be a John Deere and a barn. I knew I wasn’t in Queens anymore, and felt like my reading life was safe for the week I put it in Jane’s control.
Maine, complicated relationships, secrets, and summer camp. These are the primary ingredients of this story that bring together a group of brothers and sisters to run a summer camp that their parents ran when they were growing up. There are surprises here—excellent ones—and they are spaced out nicely that in such a way that just when I got comfortable with how things were going, just when I thought I could see what was going to happen next, there was something that threw me for a good reading loop and reinvigorated my interest in the story.
I’ve heard several writers say that they don’t have one idea for a book, usually the book comes when several ideas seem to collide and this book has a good bit of that going on. There are romantic and familial complications along with the tricky balance that running a camp that’s good for kids must be while at the same time paying attention to the fact that there are bills to be paid. “Materialism is the opiate of the masses,” one character quips in part about all the upgrades to the camp over the years (i.e. a climbing wall). Another remembers how in the old days the camp was supposed to be, “A vision of what the world might be.” That last line, it reminds me of something fiction can accomplish as well. Eden Lake creates a world I was thankful to have visited, enough so that I still haven’t stopped thinking about packing up the car and heading north to see if I could find some version of it.
Roper, Jane. Eden Lake. Boston: Last Light Studio, 2011. Print.