Black Bear Lake by Leslie Liautaud is almost a 1980s period piece, full off cassettes and feathered hair, told in an extended flashback to a family vacation when he was growing up. Adult Adam is looking back on the summer that changed everything, the issues he won’t talk with his wife about, the reason he’s in therapy exploring his past, so even as he describes an idyllic summer on the family lakeside, I couldn’t help worrying that each new page would be the event was the Very Bad Thing. The literary device, and the feeling it created, is quite a lot like the last title I recieved from Whirlwind, Careful.
Teenage Adam and his family join the rest of their extended family on the shores of Black Bear Lake. He’s most excited about seeing his favorite cousin, Danielle, but their usual close friendship is disrupted by teenage hormones, and the arrival of Amy, a babysitter attached to some of the younger cousins. While there’s plenty of summer fun seeing Dany, going swimming, and sneaking beers with his older cousins, Adam is just becoming old enough to see some of the adult dynamics in his family.
He’s noticing how his mom copes with her illness by keeping it from her own mother, and listens to what Dany’s mom says (and doesn’t say) about her marriage. He’s also starting to see relationships in how his younger brothers behave, trying to get attention from their mother while they still can, to Amy’s attention-seeking. There are enough gently mature realizations to take me off my guard that maybe the Very Bad Thing won’t happen, when, of course, it does.
I received a copy of this novel from the publicist to review. Review and comments are, as always, my own. (ARCs have never stopped me from snarking about a bad book or writing a critical review.)