2Q * 2P * M * J * S
Beiko, S.M. The Lake and the Library. ECW, 2013. 160p. $14.95 Trade pb. 978-1-77041-057-2.
A romantic ghost story set in a small prairie town, The Lake and the Library opens with sixteen-year-old artist Ash longing for adventure. This is her last summer in Treade and she is glad of it. Soon, she and her equally free-spirited mother will move away and she might find the magic and wonder she has only read about in books. One place in Treade still holds her interest, though: an abandoned building on the outskirts of town, near the lake. When she ventures inside, she discovers a library and a mute boy named Li. The library and Li become her secret, her haven from the boredom and mediocrity of Treade, but like all secrets, this one comes with risks. Her increasing obsession with Li and the library only widens the gap between Ash and her family and friends.
The prose is so descriptive that it borders on intemperance. Ash is a prickly character and not always likable although she fits the standard artistic misfit role. Her desire for adventure is strangely myopic and sometimes juvenile, while her attachments to friends and family seem shallow. Even her hatred of Treade sits at odds with her life, which does not seem as soul-draining as she claims. Interludes between the chapters reveal clues about the library and its keeper, but do not add much to the story and feel stilted at times. This may appeal to hardcore romantics and dreamers, but even they might be challenged by the dense language and slow plot.--Brenna Shanks