Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Inn at Lake Devine: Review

The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman is narrated by Natalie Marx.  Natalie's family is Jewish.  And in the "enlightened" times of the 1960s, racial barriers are falling.  Supposedly.  But when Natalie's parents are looking for a place to spend their vacation in the summer of 1962, they receive an answer from Vermont that sounds very much like a challenge to Natalie.  The guests of the Inn at Lake Devine are all Gentiles--they're the ones who "feel most comfortable here and return year after year."  After her mother shows her the letter, Natalie becomes almost obsessed with the Inn.  She is determined to cross the threshold as guest. 

What follows is a wonderful novel coming of age novel.  It is all about growing up with racial and religious differences.  It's an insightful commentary on the prejudices and bigotry that kept Jewish people and others out of certain establishments and forced them to create their own places.  It shows how one girl's determination can bring understanding to at least a few people.  And it does it without being heavy-handed, without hitting the reader over the head with platitudes.  It even manages to produce a lovely romantic story along the way.

I picked this one up for the Getting Lost in a Comfortable Book Challenge.  Not my normal reading fare, but a wonderful story and a very quick read.  Natalie is a marvelous central character--someone that I wish I knew in real life.  And the supporting characters are just as finely drawn....there are no cardboard cutouts here.  Real people facing real problems....and dealing with events in a very realistic way.  Highly recommended. Four stars.

That's how it was on Irving Circle and how I was raised: You made the best out of what was within reach, which meant friendships engineered by parents and by the happenstance of housing. I stayed with it because we both had queenly older sisters who rarely condescended to play with us, because Shelley was adopted and I was not, because Shelley had Clue and Life, and I did not. (p. 11)

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