Thursday, 6 September 2018

The Glass Lake

Finished August 30
The Glass Lake by Maeve Binchy

This novel follows a mother and daughter over several years. As the book begins, Kit McMahon is twelve years old, and lives with her dad, Martin, a pharmacist; her mom, Helen; and her younger brother Emmet. They live above the pharmacy in the small town of Lough Glass. Helen is not happy, and Kit is aware of that in a sense. She knows her parents having their own bedrooms is not the norm among her schoolmates, but isn't sure what it means. Rita is their live-in maid, who also does most of the cooking.
Kit's best friend is Clio Kelly, whose father is the local doctor. Clio and Kit have spats every so often that split them up for a while, but they always eventually make up. Kit gets along well with Emmet, as he is an easygoing boy. He has a stutter, that makes him less inclined to speak up in public. Clio has a younger sister, Anna, who always wants to join her and Kit, but Clio never wants to include her, and the two sisters don't get on well.
Helen married Martin in a resigned sort of way. He knew that she'd been in love with someone else, but that that man had left her. His love was strong enough that he thought it would work out. Helen is a city girl, and doesn't fit in in their small town, and she hasn't really made an effort. She likes to take solitary walks by the lake.
The small Irish town is typical of many like it. The girls go to a school run by nuns, headed by Mother Bernard, and the boys go to one headed by Brother Healy. A few years back, a solitary nun appeared in town and moved into an empty cottage near the lake. Sister Madeleine lives simply, with the townspeople bringing her what she needs to survive. She listens to their stories, and gives advice when she can. Recently, she began having Emmet visit her to read poetry aloud, which is helping with his stutter.
Also in town is a pub, a dilapidated hotel called the Central Hotel, owned by the O'Briens, the usual assortment of shops, and an auto repair shop. The auto shop is owned by Billy Williams, but he has fallen badly into alcoholism, and and is soon shipped off to a home, while his two sons, Stevie and Michael return to the town, and Stevie begins to run the business.
One evening Helen doesn't return from her walk by the lake, a boat is found overturned and floating free, and winds were high. While the general assumption is that something unexpected happened, Kit worries that her mother's sadness may have led her to do something unthinkable, and she burns the letter left behind.
Meanwhile Helen has been reunited with her first love, and gone to London, and waits for word from Martin that will never come. In her new life, she finds that she has been assumed dead, and she must move on with the life she has chosen.
As we follow her, and Kit through the next few years, we see how their actions lead to challenges for both of them. An interesting story, with some very strong and capable female characters.

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