In 1935, six-year-old Emily Evans vanishes from her family’s vacation home on a remote Minnesota lake. Her disappearance destroys the family—her father commits suicide, and her mother and two older sisters spend the rest of their lives at the lake house, keeping a decades-long vigil for the lost child.
Sixty years later, Lucy, the quiet and watchful middle sister, lives in the lake house alone. Before her death, she writes the story of that devastating summer in a notebook that she leaves, along with the house, to the only person who might care: her grandniece, Justine. For Justine, the lake house offers freedom and stability—a way to escape her manipulative boyfriend and give her daughters the home she never had. But the long Minnesota winter is just beginning. The house is cold and dilapidated. The dark, silent lake is isolated and eerie. Her only neighbor is a strange old man who seems to know more about the summer of 1935 than he’s telling.
Soon Justine’s troubled oldest daughter becomes obsessed with Emily’s disappearance, her mother arrives to steal her inheritance, and the man she left launches a dangerous plan to get her back. In a house haunted by the sorrows of the women who came before her, Justine must overcome their tragic legacy if she hopes to save herself and her children.
This novel seized me and would not let go. It haunted me.
The reader knows from the beginning that a young girl disappeared one summer long ago, but we don’t know how or why. The novel is told from three different perspectives; 11-year-old Lucy, the summer that her sister disappeared, and many years later as an old women towards the end of her life, looking back. In the present day is Justine, Lucy’s grand-niece with two daughters of her own, who’s fled to the summer house by the lake where Emily disappeared.
The multiple narratives circle around that tragic summer, what happened during and its consequences. The reader at first thinks that Emily’s disappearance was a tragic event that shattered an idyllic family. However, troubling hints of dark secrets simmering that summer signal that all is not perfect. In fact, by the time the novel ends, every character’s shame and culpability are uncovered, exposing the complete devastation of Emily’s loss.
I started out curious then uneasy but by novel’s end, with the truth revealed, I was emotionally wrecked.