From the Giller-nominated author of Y comes a suspenseful novel about the dark corners of a small town
It's New Year's Day and the residents of a small fishing town are ready to start their lives anew. Leo takes his two young sons out to the lake to write resolutions on paper boats. That same frigid morning, Vera sets out for a walk with her dog along the lake, leaving her husband in bed with a hangover.
But she never returns. She places a call to the police saying she's found a boy in the woods, but the call is cut short by a muffled cry. Did one of Leo's sons see Vera? What are they hiding from the police? And why are they so scared of their own father?
In the months ahead, Vera's absence sets off a chain of reverberating events in Whale Bay. Her apathetic husband succumbs to grief. Leo heads south and remarries. And the cop investigating the case falls for Leo's ex-wife but finds himself slipping further away from the truth.
Told from shifting perspectives, How a Woman Becomes a Lake is about childhood, familial bonds, new beginnings, and costly mistakes. A literary novel with the pull and pace of a thriller, told in taut illuminating prose, it asks, what do you do when the people who are supposed to love you the most fail?
MARJORIE CELONA's debut novel, Y, won France's Grand Prix Littéraire de l'Héroïne and was nominated for the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Marjorie's work has appeared in The O. Henry Prize Stories, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, The Southern Review, Harvard Review, The Sunday Times, and elsewhere. Born and raised on Vancouver Island, Marjorie teaches in the MFA Program at the University of Oregon.
A Globe and Mail book to get you through till spring
A Chatelaine Thriller to read this winter
“Celona’s icily unsentimental novel offers less predictable riches, unspooling instead into the complicated lives of her protagonist . . . The fate of [Vera] is gradually made known through a drip-feed of unconventional reveals, but for the reader its ramifications have the shock value of cracking ice. An excellent novel about the indelible damage dysfunctional parenting can inflict on a vulnerable child.”
—The Daily Mail
“[H]aunting . . . How a Woman Becomes a Lake [has] both the artful structure and the tension of a crime novel.”
—Quill and Quire
“To the reader picking up this book for the first time: I envy you, such is the pleasure, depth, and beauty of the journey you’re about to take. Haunting, deeply felt, ingeniously constructed, How A Woman Becomes a Lake is a supremely satisfying novel, masterful on every level. I could not put it down.”
—Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Dreamers
“This is a rare book that is satisfying in every possible way. Beautifully written, clear-eyed and compassionate in its examination of character, it's also a gripping mystery that kept me reading late into the night. The story, and the questions it raises about love, loss, and family, will stay with me for a long time.”
—Leah Stewart, author of What You Don't Know About Charlie Outlaw
“This book has moved into me; it occupies and haunts me. Marjorie Celona writes with an empathy that manages to be both enveloping and exact. How a Woman Becomes a Lake is about what it’s like to long for your most secret self to be understood, while fearing that such understanding might kill you. It is a feral, echoing, complicatedly vulnerable work of art.”
—Sara Peters, author of I Become a Delight to My Enemies
“A woman’s disappearance sends out ripples of enduring questions. What happens when darkness is handed down from one generation to the next? How do secrets kept out of love warp the people who keep them? Marjorie Celona wraps powerful ideas about care-taking and morality around a tight, elegantly suspenseful story. This is a beautifully written book that I read compulsively, in a single sitting, all the way through to its haunting end.”
—Alix Ohlin, author of Dual Citizens
"How a Woman Becomes a Lake is a deeply empathetic and emotionally astute novel that reads like a thriller. Everyone in this troubling story is doing their best. And every one of Marjorie Celona's sentences glints with an ice crystal's understated beauty. This is a profound and generous-hearted page-turner.”
—Deborah Willis, author of The Dark and Other Love Stories
“It is not lightly that I say: I could not put this book down. Celona’s writing possesses the clearness and poetry of a compassionate, all-seeing ghost. Each time a character crossed the page, I felt absorbed by their consciousness, invited to see the story from a fresh, insistent perspective. On the one hand, How a Woman Becomes a Lake offers a felt study of guilt, grief and blame. On the other, the story will challenge your conceptions of love, which can be greedy, as well as sacrificial and absolving.”
—Eliza Robertson, author of Demi-Gods
“A thriller with stunning writing and real honesty about grief.”
—Stella Duffy, author of Theodora
“Poignant and lyrical, Celona makes finding out what happened to Vera a burning curiosity for the reader. More importantly, she makes what happens to all the characters feel meaningful.”
“[While How a Woman Becomes a Lake] does come under the heading of ‘crime’, it is also a beautifully written exploration of grief, vulnerability, guilt and violence. Becoming a lake (just in case you were wondering) means to rest, to be still, to be separate, not just from others but from yourself. What it means in the context of this deeply satisfying book . . . well you’ll just have to read it to find out!”
“A highly original, beautifully crafted literary thriller packed with characters that linger long in the mind.”
—The Irish Independent
“Celona has the courage to take her time, letting us have a leisurely rummage inside her characters’ heads, refusing to be trammelled by the usual rhythms of the whodunnit; and yet she manages to pull off twists worthy of Harlan Coben . . . It’s a rarity: a book confected with satisfying artfulness that feels like a slice of real life.”
—The Daily Telegraph, five starred reivew
“Cool, clear, melancholy . . . the mystery at the heart of the story is how lives can so easily fall into loneliness and disconnection. A beautifully sad read.”
—The Sunday Express, five starred review