Anthea Carson's "The Dark Lake" is a fast-paced novel that flits between the past and present-day life of Jane, a recovering addict who is trapped in limbo by a tragedy involving one of her best friends.
We first meet Jane in the present day. She is in her 20s or 30s, perhaps. Carson doesn't give a lot of detail about her physical appearance, leaving that to the imagination of the reader. We learn that Jane lives at home with her dysfunctional parents, attends AA meetings, and visits a therapist regularly. She can't hold a job, never graduated from high school or college, and constantly relives the past, torturing herself in the process.
So why bother reading about Jane when she sounds like so many wash-ups we read about in today's society?
Because she has a secret. A secret locked inside her mind to which even she doesn't hold the key. During the course of the story, we get bits and pieces here, a glimmer there, about what happened on the fateful night she relives over and over. What really happened that night? Did her friend survive the tragedy or perish? Can Jane overcome the past or is she destined to be lost to it?
At first it seems as if she might be lost forever.
Carson has written and published several short stories, the novel "Ainsworth," and has co-written a book about chess. "The Dark Lake" seems drawn deep from the depths of her imagination and successfully captures the reader's imagination till the story's end. And then you have to read the sequel.