Reviewed by Beth Cummings
This book is short story writer, Vestal McIntyre’s first novel. He has set it in the small town of Eula, Idaho, in his home state and created the kinds of people that he probably grew up knowing.
Lina Cortez and her sons, Jay and Enrique share a small mobile home in a trailer park. She cleans houses. The boys go to school. Enrique is particularly bright. At the start of the book, he and his next-door neighbor, Gene, are going to do a science fair project together. Gene is also very intelligent, but he has something wrong that is close to autism – he never looks anyone in the eye, rarely speaks and becomes fixated on things that interest him. Their project begins as one of those things – the story of a village near a lake in Cameroon that has a disaster where all people and animals die with no collateral damage. Scientists are not sure what happened, but feel it was the result of a gaseous buildup in the lake that bubbled up out of the water and swept through the village – killing everyone as they slept. This phenomenon was called “lake overturn.”
The plot follows the boys through the science fair project. It also follows the lives of their mothers, Enrique’s brother, the families of several other students in the school as well as the school bus driver and his sister. While the characters are all well drawn and interesting, I felt that McIntyre put too many of them in the book. While they do cross paths with each other occasionally, he gives each of them a complete story line that doesn’t have much to do with the other story lines. In some ways this would be true to life in a small town – people who know each other well and others who only are aware of each other in passing, but it was unnecessarily complicated to read.
I did have an uncorrected proof copy of the book and perhaps the final product will have been tightened up a bit. Nonetheless, Lake Overturn could be a good discussion topic for a book group.
Armchair Interviews says: Interesting story with lots of characters in a small town.
Author’s Website: http://www.VestalMcIntyre.com