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  • Writer's pictureJanna Zonder

Hauntingly Beautiful

"Things that happen in your childhood come back to haunt you more and more as you get older, and once you are alone you no longer pretend that the life at hand is where you live."

I read Lee Zacharias' Across the Great Lake a few weeks ago, and her characters are still very much alive in my mind, like beloved friends long gone but never to be forgotten.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Fern, both as an old woman looking back upon her life and as an adventurous child trying to make sense of events as she was living them, particularly the events that occurred during the winter of 1935 when she "went to the ice" on Lake Michigan with her ferry captain father.

As the older Fern muses, "Those were more innocent times, people like to say, and I suppose they were if you consider that innocence is just ignorance dressed up in nice clothes."

Zacharias masterfully weaves her tale by taking the reader back and forth in time, allowing us to hear Fern's thoughts as she chips away at a frozen seascape of memory, populated by ghosts and burdened by the secrets she has never been able to tell.

Zacharias' world is so richly drawn that she managed to make freezing weather and life aboard an ice-bound ship fascinating to this hot-weather-loving landlubber. Often, when I was humming along thinking she was simply describing a scene or an action, she would hit me with an insight into human nature that was so penetrating, so beautifully written, that I had to stop and catch my breath.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone who loves great writing, a strong plot, and rich characterizations.

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