Monday, 16 July 2012

A Trip to Yellow Lake

Armadillo reviewer Bridget Carrington is back with another fantastic book to report on, At Yellow Lake by debut author Jane McLoughlin, published by Frances Lincoln.  Not only are we tantalizing you with Bridget's comments (below) but in the Autumn edition of the magazine, due early September, we will feature an interview with the author ...

Getting a new twist to a teen thriller isn’t an easy task, but in At Yellow Lake (Frances Lincoln) new author Jane McLoughlin has managed to combine a gripping story with some serious social issues.  As an American who has lived in the UK for two decades, McLoughlin is well placed to include characters from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, and to celebrate their different concerns, behaviour and outlook on life. The story is set mainly in Minnesota. McLoughlin’s home state, and centres around Yellow Lake itself, a place which has beckoned Etta, Peter and Jonah because of a cataclysmic event in the life of each teenager.

Jonah is part Ojibwe, a boy who has problems with his mother’s rejection of her Native American roots, and who seeks to reconnect with his heritage by living as his ancestors did.  This proves difficult and dispiriting at first, and his determination to live as Ojibwe lays him open to racism and prejudice among the small-minded backwoods community near to Yellow Lake. It takes him a long time to learn to trust others, and to come to terms with the rivalry with Peter, as each discovers a need for Etta.

Etta’s home background is even more dysfunctional, her mother’s succession of boyfriends culminating in Kyle, whose pursuit of Etta herself traps her within his own shady dealings, and his sexual obsession. Despite this (or perhaps because of it) Etta is a strong personality, determined to rescue her mother from her history of failed jobs and relationships, and whose presence changes the lives of Jonah and Peter. While Jonah and Peter’s stories are narrated, Etta tells her own tale, placing her at the centre of events, and the central figure in the resolution of each character’s story.

Peter is English, drawn to Yellow Lake by the need to carry out his mother’s dying wish, to bury a lock of her hair at her childhood holiday home. Peter’s father is absent for much of the time, apparently more interested in his work and the travel it demands than in his son. Peter takes the opportunity to fly to meet his uncle in the US, and thence to travel to Yellow Lake, to carry out his promise to his mother.

Thrown together by chance the three teenagers start to come terms not only with their relationships among themselves, with adolescent dilemmas as a whole, but also with the much deeper rooted reasons for their journeys to Yellow Lake. McLoughlin weaves their separate stories with great skill before finally placing them at the centre of a nail-biting criminal enterprise, police corruption and community apathy.

Great stuff!

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