The Starling family will reunite to spend one final weekend at their lake house in North Carolina before it is sold and parents Lisa and Richard retire to Florida. Everyone in the group is hiding secrets, which bubble to the surface in the wake of a boy's drowning—a tragedy that forces each family member to reckon with who they are and what they want out of life.
Lake Life, establishes Poissant as one of the South's best new writers working today. It is a dazzling work that is so confidently crafted, so keenly perceptive and so deeply compassionate, it's hard to believe it was written by someone this early in his career. The premise is elegant in its simplicity ... One of the things that makes Lake Life so captivating is Poissant’s ability to take this knotty situation and, in surprising and organic ways, make profound observations about some of life’s bigger questions. Everything from politics and religion to the meaning of art and the secret to happiness is explored through the Starling family’s fractured prism.
Most stunning in this debut novel is Poissant’s remarkable facility and fluency with point of view. It’s an achievement to alternate between two main characters’ viewpoints. But taking on six characters’ perceptions, six interior landscapes, six psychologies, six personal histories and pathologies, six ways of seeing and interpreting the happenings of the past and present—this is a feat. No character thinks or feels or talks like anyone else—and their voices and perceptions remain distinguishable and consistent throughout 40 chapters. The effect is cumulative—by the third time we’re in Richard’s head, we know this dad and love him—his calm sweetness and his flaws ... Each character’s trajectory is masterfully rendered ... The sensory descriptions this author comes up with are gorgeous and rare ... For a perfect summer read, look no further. You’re not likely to find more beautiful, more distinctive prose anywhere.
The novel is less concerned with the origins of dysfunction than with how it plays out. Here the likability question arises, whether readers will invest in characters they find unpleasant. It is the bane of any author interested in complexity and nuance, as Poissant surely is. Michael especially is a tough sell. He’s the kind of drunk begging to be face-punched. Thankfully, someone obliges. There’s a lot of bad behavior here, perhaps because Poissant is so good at writing it. His prose throughout is sure-footed and intelligent. Wincing scenes are leavened with moments of grace and mournful nostalgia. Poissant also leaves room for absorbing discussions of art, the socioeconomics of vacation property development, and religion ... six characters share point-of-view duty, for a densely subjective and immersive vision of events. And there are a great many events, perhaps too many, as if the novel doesn’t trust its own instincts for introspection and must keep hurrying us along. Quieter moments, such as Jake and Diane painting a picture together, move us more than a problematic bit about a dead deer does ... The novel achieves a kind of happy ending, though more rhetorical than dramatic. The truly likable entity we’re meant to root for is the family itself, its capacity for love, forgiveness and endurance.