Peter Rock’s autobiographical novel begins in the ’90s on the Door Peninsula of Wisconsin. The narrator, a recent college graduate, and a young widow, Mrs. Abel, swim together at night, making their way across miles of open water, navigating the currents and swells and carried by the rise and fall of the lake. Twenty years later, the narrator—now married with two daughters—tries to understand those months.
Largely an exploration of the memory work of memoirists, it might lack thrust if Rock didn’t so beautifully layer vivid details into scenes that seem more conjured than written. This genre-bending autobiographical novel occasionally spends too long in dreamland with the narrator, who uses a faculty grant to float in an isolation tank as part of a book project. But these overly dreamy sections are only short digressions in an undeniably lovely novel.
This novel has as many layers, drop-offs, storms, wrecks and submerged themes as the great Lake Michigan itself. In the afterword, Rock thanks his editor for urging him to 'make it wilder, not to tame it.' It’s a grand chance to go along on an intensely personal journey into the mind and past of an accomplished writer.