By Holly Robinson
Author’s Website: authorhollyrobinson.com
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Jeanie
New from the author of Beach Plum Island… A natural-born storyteller presents a gripping story about grief, anger, and the healing power of love.
Sydney Bishop hasn’t returned to Haven Lake, her idyllic childhood home, since a pair of shocking, tragic deaths shattered her family when she was only sixteen. Now a child psychologist engaged to marry a successful surgeon, Sydney has worked hard to build a relationship with Dylan, her fiancé’s teenage son, so she feels nothing but empathy when he runs away—until she discovers that his hitchhiking journey has led him to Haven Lake and her mother Hannah’s sheep farm.
Sydney returns to Haven Lake for the first time in twenty years to coax the boy home. Against her daughter’s wishes, Hannah offers to take Dylan in until he’s ready to reveal his own
troubling secrets. Now, for Dylan’s sake as well as their own, Sydney and Hannah must confront the devastating events that tore them apart and answer the questions that still haunt their family—and the suspicious surrounding community—about what really caused two people to die on their farm those many years ago. (from Goodreads)
Haven Lake is a very well-written drama with complex people who are products of their generation and background. It is also a story of two women hopscotching around making the decision of whether they want to heal the 20-year breach in their relationship and if so – how?
Dylan seemed like the average teen, except he was still grieving the death of his mother that occurred a few years prior. He had accepted Sydney in his dad’s life, and Gary and Sydney both thought that Dylan was okay with their upcoming nuptials. Something was seriously troubling Dylan, and he not only ran away from home, but he contacted Hannah, Sydney’s off- the-grid shepherdess mother, and asked to stay there.
Sydney called her mother Hannah for most of her life – when they spoke, that is. Hannah has tried to again be part of Sydney’s life, even meeting her fiance, Gary. Dylan brought mother and daughter together, albeit not by Sydney’s preference, and Hannah is not going to give up on her. Hannah was a child of the 60’s and 70’s, including the tumultuous years of the Vietnam war and its effects on her late husband Allen, experimenting with drugs, and the dropout lifestyle espoused by the disillusioned. Hannah and Allen had originally called the pond on their land Haven Lake, wanting the farm to be their haven from post-war America.
Sydney’s childhood and her mother had seemed magical when she was young, but now she understands how unusual it was, and rarely shares details with anyone in her life. Sydney left Haven Lake when she was a teen, after two terrible deaths about which she never truth – or recovered from it. After those deaths, Hannah drank herself into a breakdown and psych ward, leaving Sydney no choice but to live with her father’s parents. She had no way of knowing that her grandparents had secrets that Hannah had tried to protect her from, and secrets that later kept Hannah and Sydney apart from loved ones and each other.
Holly Robinson’s prose sings, her words painting pictures in the mind of the reader. Her descriptives invites one to look for the poetry and the colors in life. Some of the characters’ thoughts and ideals are tongue-in-cheek humor, others are irony. The characters are an eccentric group. Each has been broken by circumstances beyond their control, with jagged shards still painfully working to the surface. Dylan’s genuine self is much closer to the being released than those of the adults, and he fights to be real and accepted just as desperately as he tries to fit into a world he doesn’t understand.
Watching the characters interact and change as a result of Dylan’s behaviors is worth the read. Seeing Hannah and Sydney tentatively reach out to each other after two decades makes one want to pick up the phone and connect with parents or children who, while they may not be estranged, keep their authentic selves hidden from each other.
Haven Lake is complex, with two primary plots and lesser subplots that are skillfully introduced and woven together into the whole of the work. While they try to help Dylan, he is reaching out through his struggles to help Hannah and Sydney communicate and be the mother and daughter they were so many years ago. Sydney tries to find the truth about her father and her best friend’s deaths – but is the truth more than she or Hannah can bear?
Learning about sheep and organic farming through Hannah’s eyes was interesting, as was seeing Hannah and Dylan open up to each other. There were times that I wondered if there was hope for anything positive in the lives of any of the characters. Yet they continued to try, and that trying itself demonstrated hope for the future. One disappointment for me was that some of the language was offensive but I skidded around it and proceed. Due to a few sexually explicit scenes, this reader suggests that this novel may not be appropriate for younger teens.
I do recommend this novel for adults of any age who appreciate the challenges that broken people face and may triumph over if willing to see the truth. There is beauty in Holly Robinson’s writing that is not to be missed, and she brings delightful surprises that readers will appreciate.
Those who try to make amends with parents or children also will see demonstrated how to reach through their generational differences and love again.