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Tom Lake
Cover of Tom Lake
Tom Lake
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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A REESE'S BOOK CLUB PICK

In this beautiful and moving novel about family, love, and growing up, Ann Patchett once again proves herself one of America's finest writers.

"Patchett leads us to a truth that feels like life rather than literature." —The Guardian

In the spring of 2020, Lara's three daughters return to the family's orchard in Northern Michigan. While picking cherries, they beg their mother to tell them the story of Peter Duke, a famous actor with whom she shared both a stage and a romance years before at a theater company called Tom Lake. As Lara recalls the past, her daughters examine their own lives and relationship with their mother, and are forced to reconsider the world and everything they thought they knew.

Tom Lake is a meditation on youthful love, married love, and the lives parents have led before their children were born. Both hopeful and elegiac, it explores what it means to be happy even when the world is falling apart. As in all of her novels, Ann Patchett combines compelling narrative artistry with piercing insights into family dynamics. The result is a rich and luminous story, told with profound intelligence and emotional subtlety, that demonstrates once again why she is one of the most revered and acclaimed literary talents working today.

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A REESE'S BOOK CLUB PICK

In this beautiful and moving novel about family, love, and growing up, Ann Patchett once again proves herself one of America's finest writers.

"Patchett leads us to a truth that feels like life rather than literature." —The Guardian

In the spring of 2020, Lara's three daughters return to the family's orchard in Northern Michigan. While picking cherries, they beg their mother to tell them the story of Peter Duke, a famous actor with whom she shared both a stage and a romance years before at a theater company called Tom Lake. As Lara recalls the past, her daughters examine their own lives and relationship with their mother, and are forced to reconsider the world and everything they thought they knew.

Tom Lake is a meditation on youthful love, married love, and the lives parents have led before their children were born. Both hopeful and elegiac, it explores what it means to be happy even when the world is falling apart. As in all of her novels, Ann Patchett combines compelling narrative artistry with piercing insights into family dynamics. The result is a rich and luminous story, told with profound intelligence and emotional subtlety, that demonstrates once again why she is one of the most revered and acclaimed literary talents working today.

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About the Author-
  • Ann Patchett is the author of novels, most recently the #1 New York Times bestselling Tom Lake, works of nonfiction, and children's books. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the PEN/Faulkner, the Women's Prize for Fiction in the UK, and the Book Sense Book of the Year. Her novel The Dutch House was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages, and Time magazine named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. President Biden awarded her the National Humanities Medal in recognition of her contributions to American culture. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is the owner of Parnassus Books.

Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    April 1, 2023

    Gathering with her family at their Michigan orchard in spring 2020, Lara is pestered by her daughters to tell them about her long-ago romance with renowned actor Peter Duke, with whom she acted in a theater company called Tom Lake. The story leads the young women to reconsider their own lives and how they think about their mother. Following the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Dutch House. Prepub Alert.

    Copyright 2023 Library Journal

    Copyright 2023 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    June 1, 2023
    Lara's three twentysomething daughters are back home in northern Michigan, thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown, just in time to harvest the cherries. Emily has already committed herself to the family orchard and farm and her other great love, neighbor Benny. Maisie discovers that she can continue her veterinarian studies by caring for their neighbors' animals. Only Nell, an aspiring actor, is distraught because of their isolation, but all are ravenous for distraction as they work long hours handpicking cherries, so they insist that their mother tell them, in lavish detail, the story of her romance with a future megawatt movie star. Lara strategically fashions an edited version for her daughters, while sharing the full, heartbreaking tale with the reader. Patchett (The Dutch House, 2019) attains new dimensions of beauty and resonance as she elegantly needlepoints Lara's life onto the template of Thornton Wilder's Our Town, the first play New Hampshire high-schooler Lara acts in, the play that catapults her to Hollywood, then to summer stock at Tom Lake in Michigan, where she comes under the spell of voraciously sexy and ambitious Peter Duke. As this spellbinding and incisive novel unspools, Patchett brings every turn of mind and every setting to glorious, vibrant life, gracefully contrasting the dazzle of the ephemeral with the gravitas of the timeless, perceiving in cherries sweet and tart reflections of love and loss.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Superlative storyteller Patchett, who recently added the National Humanities Medal to her many awards, is always a must-read for myriad fiction lovers.

    COPYRIGHT(2023) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 26, 2023
    Patchett (The Dutch House) unspools a masterly family drama set in the early months of Covid-19. Lara and her husband live on a cherry orchard in northern Michigan, where they welcome their three adult daughters home to shelter in place. Emily, the oldest, is a young farmer who will inherit the family farm; Maisie is a veterinarian; and Nell, the youngest at 22, dreams of becoming an actress. They pass the hours picking fruit and listening to Lara tell the tale of her long-ago romance with “Duke,” a young actor who went on to become a major celebrity. Lara and Duke met during a summer stock production of Our Town, where she played Emily and he played her father, Editor Webb. Patchett alternates between present-day scenes of the cherry orchard and Lara’s younger years, including her brief foray as an actor in Hollywood, before an accident put a sudden end to her career. “There’s a lot you don’t know,” Lara tells Emily, Maisie, and Nell at the novel’s opening, and as Patchett’s slow-burn narrative gathers dramatic steam, she blends past and present with dexterity and aplomb, as the daughters come to learn more of the truth about Lara’s Duke stories, causing them to reshape their understanding of their mother. Patchett is at the top of her game.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from August 29, 2022
    Kingsolver (Unsheltered) offers a deeply evocative story of a boy born to an impoverished single mother. In this self-styled, modern adaptation of Dickens’s David Copperfield, Demon Copperhead, 11, is the quick-witted son and budding cartoonist of a troubled young mother and a stepfather in southern Appalachia’s Lee County, Va.; eventually, his mother’s opioid addiction places Demon in various foster homes, where he is forced to earn his keep through work (even though his guardians are paid) and is always hungry from lack of food. After a guardian steals his money, Demon hitchhikes to Tennessee in search of his paternal grandmother. She is welcoming, but will not raise him, and sends him back to live with the town’s celebrated high school football coach as his new guardian, a widower who lives in a castle-like home with his boyish daughter, Angus. Demon’s teen years settle briefly with fame on the football field and a girlfriend, Dori. But stability is short-lived after a football injury and as he and Dori become addicted to opioids (“We were storybook orphans on drugs”). Kingsolver’s account of the opioid epidemic and its impact on the social fabric of Appalachia is drawn to heartbreaking effect. This is a powerful story, both brilliant in its many social messages regarding foster care, child hunger, and rural struggles, and breathless in its delivery.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from September 1, 2022
    "A kid is a terrible thing to be, in charge of nothing." So says young Damon Fields, who's destined to be known as Demon Copperhead, a hungry orphan in a snake-harboring holler in Lee County, Virginia, where meth and opioids kill and nearly everyone is just scraping by. With his red hair and the "light-green eyes of a Melungeon," Damon's a dead-ringer for his dead father, whom he never met. More parent to his mother than she was to him, he's subjected to hellish foster situations after her death, forced into hard labor, including a stint in a tobacco field, which ignites one of many righteous indictments of greed and exploitation. Damon funnels his dreams into drawings of superheroes, art being one of his secret powers. After risking his life to find his irascible grandmother, he ends up living in unnerving luxury with Coach Winfield and his smart, caustic, motherless daughter. Kingsolver's capacious, ingenious, wrenching, and funny survivor's tale is a virtuoso present-day variation on Charles Dickens' David Copperfield, and she revels in creating wicked and sensitive character variations, dramatic trials-by-fire, and resounding social critiques, all told from Damon's frank and piercing point of view in vibrantly inventive language. Every detail stings or sings as he reflects on nature, Appalachia, family, responsibility, love, and endemic social injustice. Kingsolver's tour de force is a serpentine, hard-striking tale of profound dimension and resonance.

    COPYRIGHT(2022) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from November 4, 2022

    Paying homage to David Copperfield and a host of other coming-of-age novels, Kingsolver follows the eponymous narrator, Damon "Demon" Copperhead, from childhood to young adulthood as she chronicles his struggle--and that of his Southern Appalachian community--against generational poverty, the opioid epidemic, and decades of prejudice and exploitation of the region's natural resources. Born to a single mother who is addicted to drugs, Demon is put through a host of cruel and abject paces--homelessness, an overextended and thus neglectful child welfare system, abusive foster care situations, and a heart-rending love affair. There are moments of grace when Demon's community and family step up or step in to support him, especially his next-door neighbors, the Peggots. However, even these Samaritans have their shortcomings, like the local football coach who leads him to stardom but also addiction. VERDICT Kingsolver has successfully created an authentic voice for her teenage protagonist, a voice at once heartbreaking, humorous (often at his own expense), and ultimately resilient. This highly recommended work is an excellent read in conjunction with Beth Macy's Dopesick and J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy (both nonfiction) and novels like Tess Gunty's The Rabbit Hutch and Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone.--Faye A. Chadwell

    Copyright 2022 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from May 15, 2023
    It's time to harvest the cherries from their Michigan orchard, but the pandemic means that Joe Nelson; his wife, Lara; and their daughters, Emily, Maisie, and Nell, must pick all the fruit themselves. To lighten the lengthy, grueling workdays, and prompted by the recent death of world-famous actor Peter Duke, the girls press Lara to tell them about her romance with Duke at Tom Lake, a summer stock company in Michigan, and her decision to give up acting after one big movie role. Lara's reminiscences, peppered by feisty comments from her daughters and periodic appearances by her gentle, steadfast husband, provide the foundation for Patchett's moving portrait of a woman looking back at a formative period in her life and sharing some--but only some--of it with her children. Duke flashes across her recollections as a wildly talented, nakedly ambitious, and extremely crazy young man clearly headed for stardom, but the real interest in this portion of the novel lies in Patchett's delicate delineation of Lara's dawning realization that, fine as she is as Emily in Our Town, she has a limited talent and lacks the drive that propels Duke and her friend and understudy Pallas. The fact that Pallas, who's Black, doesn't get the break that Duke does is one strand in Patchett's intricate and subtle thematic web, which also enfolds the nature of storytelling, the evolving dynamics of a family, and the complex interaction between destiny and choice. Lara's daughters are standouts among the sharply dawn characterizations: once-volatile Emily, now settled down to be the heir apparent to the farm; no-nonsense veterinarian-in-training Maisie; and Nell, the aspiring actor and unerring observer who anticipates every turn in her mother's tale. Patchett expertly handles her layered plot, embedding one charming revelation and one brutal (but in retrospect inevitable) betrayal into a dual narrative that deftly maintains readers' interest in both the past and present action. These braided strands culminate in a denouement at once deeply sad and tenderly life-affirming. Poignant and reflective, cementing Patchett's stature as one of our finest novelists.

    COPYRIGHT(2023) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from August 1, 2022
    Inspired by David Copperfield, Kingsolver crafts a 21st-century coming-of-age story set in America's hard-pressed rural South. It's not necessary to have read Dickens' famous novel to appreciate Kingsolver's absorbing tale, but those who have will savor the tough-minded changes she rings on his Victorian sentimentality while affirming his stinging critique of a heartless society. Our soon-to-be orphaned narrator's mother is a substance-abusing teenage single mom who checks out via OD on his 11th birthday, and Demon's cynical, wised-up voice is light-years removed from David Copperfield's earnest tone. Yet readers also see the yearning for love and wells of compassion hidden beneath his self-protective exterior. Like pretty much everyone else in Lee County, Virginia, hollowed out economically by the coal and tobacco industries, he sees himself as someone with no prospects and little worth. One of Kingsolver's major themes, hit a little too insistently, is the contempt felt by participants in the modern capitalist economy for those rooted in older ways of life. More nuanced and emotionally engaging is Demon's fierce attachment to his home ground, a place where he is known and supported, tested to the breaking point as the opiate epidemic engulfs it. Kingsolver's ferocious indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, angrily stated by a local girl who has become a nurse, is in the best Dickensian tradition, and Demon gives a harrowing account of his descent into addiction with his beloved Dori (as na�ve as Dickens' Dora in her own screwed-up way). Does knowledge offer a way out of this sinkhole? A committed teacher tries to enlighten Demon's seventh grade class about how the resource-rich countryside was pillaged and abandoned, but Kingsolver doesn't air-brush his students' dismissal of this history or the prejudice encountered by this African American outsider and his White wife. She is an art teacher who guides Demon toward self-expression, just as his friend Tommy provokes his dawning understanding of how their world has been shaped by outside forces and what he might be able to do about it. An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.

    COPYRIGHT(2022) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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