cover image Tom Lake

Tom Lake

Ann Patchett. Harper, $30 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-332752-8

Patchett (The Dutch House) unspools a masterly family drama set in the early months of Covid-19. Lara and her husband live on a cherry orchard in northern Michigan, where they welcome their three adult daughters home to shelter in place. Emily, the oldest, is a young farmer who will inherit the family farm; Maisie is a veterinarian; and Nell, the youngest at 22, dreams of becoming an actress. They pass the hours picking fruit and listening to Lara tell the tale of her long-ago romance with “Duke,” a young actor who went on to become a major celebrity. Lara and Duke met during a summer stock production of Our Town, where she played Emily and he played her father, Editor Webb. Patchett alternates between present-day scenes of the cherry orchard and Lara’s younger years, including her brief foray as an actor in Hollywood, before an accident put a sudden end to her career. “There’s a lot you don’t know,” Lara tells Emily, Maisie, and Nell at the novel’s opening, and as Patchett’s slow-burn narrative gathers dramatic steam, she blends past and present with dexterity and aplomb, as the daughters come to learn more of the truth about Lara’s Duke stories, causing them to reshape their understanding of their mother. Patchett is at the top of her game. (Aug.)