cover image Lake Overturn

Lake Overturn

Vestal McIntyre, . . Harper, $24.99 (443pp) ISBN 978-0-06-167116-6

McIntyre’s absorbing but flawed debut novel (after the collection You Are Not the One ) opens with a lyrical account of a mysterious event in 1986, when, overnight, all the creatures—animals, insects and 1,700 people—living around Lake Nyos in Cameroon died. In far-off Idaho, two seventh-grade misfits—Enrique, silently coming to terms with his homosexuality, and mildly autistic Gene—decide to report on this event for their science fair project. Eventually, the boys, longtime neighbors and friends, become estranged as Gene fixates on the phenomenon. Meanwhile, Enrique’s mother becomes involved with a married man whose house she cleans, and Gene’s devoutly religious mother, who considers herself still married to a husband who abandoned her years ago, struggles with her attraction to a new man. McIntyre portrays one year in the life of these and other characters in fictional Eula, Idaho, including Enrique’s older brother, a pair of high school students and an unconvincing drug addict who hopes to become a surrogate mother. Each character seeks the love or connection that will counter their loneliness, and while the individual story lines are finely crafted, they fail to add up to a satisfying whole. (May)