Two Thumbs up! In Anthea Carson’s The Dark Lake, a woman searches for her own past in her memories. Jane, the protagonist, struggles with alcoholism, hallucinations, and blackouts as she tries to recall the events surrounding an automobile accident that she and her friends experienced in high school. This book deserves reading and rereading.
This novel has plenty of conflict, but character drives the story. We get to know Jane, her parents, Jane’s therapist, and her friends quite well in the course of the novel. Many of the characters, like Jane’s mother and Jane’s best friend Krishna, develop into characterswith stories and conflicts of their own.
As Jane recalls incidents of her life, her environment changes. She becomes confused about her own surroundings and whether she’s telling about events or living them. Readers experience a bumpy ride at first, but the narrative smooths out as it spirals in on Jane’s lost recollections. Some readers may feel that they’re as lost in the story as Jane, but this experience may in turn enhance their identification with her.
Jane narrates story in a voice that’s convincingly genuine. Her diction is conversational, Midwestern, and fluent. Her word choices never confuse us. Her recollections of dialogues with other characters aren’t stilted or awkward. The fluency of Jane’s speech contrasts with the discontinuity of her memory, giving the reader the sense of sliding on a smooth surface and then falling into a gulf.
Categorizing this book is difficult. The author herself calls it a psychological suspense novel. It’s also a quest story told with stream-of-consciousness technique. The DarkLake made this reviewer think of particular experimental films by Maya Deren and poems by Emily Dickinson because the novel has cinema-like transitions that might be described as jump cuts and a poetic use of symbols.
Although it's an excellent book, The Dark Lake has a few drawbacks that might make it inappropriate for some readers:
*The Dark Lake is the first volume of a proposed trilogy, so all the loose ends of the story are not tied up or even gathered together at the end. This reviewer is looking forward to a volume that tells Krishna’s story.
*The story includes incidents of substance abuse and implied casual sex.
*This book is only available from Amazon, perhaps because its author signed on to the KDP Select program. No .pdf or Nook version is available from Smashwords.
*Like many self-published books, The Dark Lake has a few typos.
An earlier version of this article appeared on Triond's Quazen website: http://quazen.com/shopping/book-review-the-dark-lake/ .