Book review: ‘Lost Lake’ by Sarah Addison Allen

Lost LakeHearing Sarah Addison Allen has a new novel out is enough to send me running for the bookstore. I fell in love with her work in Garden Spells, then had my devotion solidified with The Sugar Queen and The Peach Keeper. Her blend of magic, love and family is often a delight, and I always look forward to losing myself in her work.

All this to say I went into Lost Lake with high expectations . . . and, sadly, they just weren’t met. Despite an intriguing-enough premise and some sweet (if shallow) characters, I never connected with the story or felt any allegiance to this unusual crew of vacationers and locals alike in Lost Lake, Georgia.

Our main cast is comprised of Kate and Devin, a mother-daughter duo grieving the unexpected loss of Kate’s husband. Wanting to escape from her cold mother-in-law and the constraints at home, Kate wakes up from a year of despondency with the idea of visiting her aunt Eby on the lake Eby has called home for decades.

Once a happening resort area, Lost Lake has fallen into disrepair — and become a victim of changing economic times. With Eby’s beloved husband gone, she no longer feels the passion she once did for the area . . . but can’t bear to leave it behind, either. With dreams of traveling the world again in her retirement, Eby has plans for Lost Lake — but so do other Georgia residents. And they may not go down without a fight.

Like all of Allen’s works, Lost Lake benefits from a sense of the surreal — but nothing in this novel floats quite like her other books. We feel for Kate and Devin as they navigate their sudden loss, but Kate always seemed detached and unyielding to me. I just didn’t bond with her.

But Eby? Eby was priceless. Still kicking rump in her would-be retirement years, I loved the genesis story of how she and George came to meet, marry and defy their families’ expectations by opening up Lost Lake. The stories from their honeymoon in Europe were the definite highlight of the novel for me, and I enjoyed the tale of how they met Lisette — a friend who has also makes her home at Lost Lake — through a mishap in Paris.

If the story had centered on those three, I would have been happier . . . or less annoyed, anyway. Honestly, most of Lost Lake was pretty forgettable for me. It lacked Allen’s trademark warmth, her zing and zip; it felt like a husk of a story instead of a full-blooded novel, and it suffered for that. It was entertaining enough when Kate and Devin finally connect with Eby, but I never bought into Kate’s romance or felt any desire to move forward.

I listened to Lost Lake on audio . . . and I think that’s the only reason I finished it. Though it pains me to pan an Allen novel, this one just lacked life. The story was more interesting when we delved into the past . . . but we had to keep returning to the present. A bummer how that works.

2.5 out of 5!

Pub: 2013 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Audio copy borrowed from my local library

17 thoughts on “Book review: ‘Lost Lake’ by Sarah Addison Allen

    • I can’t help but want to love an Allen book, Andi — which makes it all the worse when I don’t! She’s had a few huge hits for me (Garden Spells, The Sugar Queen) and some big misses (Girl Who Chased the Moon, this one). Still, I wouldn’t hesitate to grab her next novel and try, try again!


  1. Oh man, sorry you didn’t like this one! I’m not sure about reading this one myself. I really have liked Allen’s books in the past but your review of it makes me think that I should think about this one a little more.


    • Give it a shot if you like Allen, Meg! I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up her next work . . . I still love her. Lost Lake just didn’t work for me.


    • Could be, Juju — sometimes a story simply doesn’t work for me in audio, and I think I’d enjoy it more in print. There are certain authors I won’t listen to on audio before I simply love the feel of their prose (like Jhumpa Lahiri), and others that I would never want to read in print because I love the audios so much (Joshilyn Jackson, for one)!


  2. Bummer you didn’t enjoy this one as much as the rest. I love Allen and I think I connected with Kate and Devin more because they reminded me of a mom and daughter I know. But as I read your review I realized how little of the story actually stuck with me.


    • Having a personal association with some of the characters would definitely help, Jess — Kate and Devin weren’t unpleasant to read about, but I just never befriended them. And yes, this plot line isn’t one to likely stay with me . . .


    • I’d recommend starting with Garden Spells, Lindsey — it’s her first novel, actually, and still remains the best use of magical realism of the group! I really enjoyed The Sugar Queen too, though.


  3. I think I’ll always enjoy reading SAA, but this one was indeed the weakest. There were too many characters and back-stories and not enough space to do them justice and make us connect with them. A little bit more romance and magic also wouldn’t have hurt.

    Didn’t you get a Shirley-MacLaine-in-Steel-Magnolias about Selma?


    • Totally agree, Alex — the many characters and back stories were distracting, and I think the whole book would have benefited from more focus. And yes, Selma definitely had that vibe . . . I liked her “power” over men, but I didn’t think it was explored enough. It was just sort of . . . there? And assumed we would “get” it? I don’t know. Weird.


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