Review

The Lake House

by James Patterson

Read an
Excerpt




James Patterson won my undying loyalty and admiration about ten
years ago. The book that did it was KISS THE GIRLS, and the reason
was in a way personal, and in another way not --- personal because
having that book to read got me through one of the most difficult
weekends of my life; not so personal because I suspect the very
qualities of Patterson's prose that engaged and, in a sense,
protected me on that weekend, are the same qualities that have
brought about his huge success. He writes short chapters, which
means that it is never particularly hard to find a place to put the
book down, if you must. Conversely, he writes with a driving
narrative force so that you are eager to return to the book as
often as you can; you avidly desire to stay with it, to keep
turning the pages quickly. Still, most of his books are lengthy
enough so that you can take a nice long while to read them; thus,
when you're done, you feel as if you have had a substantive,
rewarding experience. You don't go away from a Patterson novel
feeling cheated or hungry --- unless it's hungry for the next
one.

Serious James Patterson fans will likely find it as fascinating as
I did (immediately after my experience with KISS THE GIRLS) to read
his earliest books, which are readily available in paperback. These
books, written before Patterson created his thriller series
character Alex Cross, show his style developing along with his
ability to portray characters and unfold plot. ALONG CAME A SPIDER,
if you read in sequence with those earlier titles (which may be
easily found through Bookreporter's link to
James Patterson's Bibliography
), shows an almost exponential
leap forward ... and Patterson's success has been non-stop ever
since.

THE LAKE HOUSE is a sequel to WHEN THE WIND BLOWS; if you haven't
read the first one it would be a good idea to purchase it and read
them together, since WHEN THE WIND BLOWS is available in paperback
at little expense. Both books are markedly different in substance,
but not in style, from Patterson's earlier works; these are
thrillers, yes, but they are of a different flavor and scope. I
would call these stories cautionary futuristic fables. It might be
good to remember that fables have a point to make more than an
elaborate tale to tell. In other words, in a fable, the plot is
simple by design.

THE LAKE HOUSE picks up shortly after WHEN THE WIND BLOWS ended.
The main character, Max (her full "name" is Maximum), is a hybrid,
a bird-girl. She is the oldest of six, all genetically engineered
bird-human hybrids who, in the first book, escaped from The School
where they had been kept in extremely cruel conditions. Next to Max
in age are Ozymandias and Icarus, called respectively Oz and Ick
(Ick is blind) --- these three are teenagers, precocious in their
adolescence. Matthew is Max's younger brother. Peter and Wendy, the
youngest, are twins aged four. Of course they all have wings and
can fly, but they are so stunningly beautiful that only the most
heartless or ignorant person would call them freaks. Unfortunately,
American culture has never been lacking for heartlessness and
ignorance, and of such tensions books are made.

The tale begins with the suspense of a custody trial. Though
genetically engineered by the scientists of The School, the
children nevertheless have biological mothers, with whom they were
sent to live shortly after WHEN THE WIND BLOWS drew to a close. But
remember, these kids are half-bird, so together they are a flock;
further, like little birds, they have imprinted not on their
biological parents but on Frannie and Kit, who were the first
humans to love and befriend them. Frannie is a veterinarian and Kit
is an FBI agent. We learn in the early pages of THE LAKE HOUSE that
the only place the kids have ever felt safe was during their time
with Frannie and Kit at a cabin by a lake --- yes, the house of the
book title --- before the unimaginative, short-sighted courts
dispersed them to their various biological parents. Led by Max, the
kids want to reunite with Frannie and Kit, who have petitioned the
courts for custody of all six. Frannie, a compassionate doctor of
animal medicine, understands the bird children as no one else does.
The fact that she and Kit are not married seems, to her, only a
minor obstacle in this day and age --- but fictionally speaking,
there are interesting romantic possibilities here.

The judge who hears the custody case doesn't understand the
stresses that the kids are under in a "normal" family, their
deep-seated need to be together, or the danger they are all in.
Only Max really understands the danger ... and she's not telling.
But she is planning, and when the bad guy goes on the move, Max
gathers the others and they fly away together. The chase is
on.

The bad guy is Dr. Ethan Kane, who survived the supposed
destruction of The School at the end of WHEN THE WIND BLOWS. Now he
has a project underway at The Hospital, a place so diabolical it
makes The School look tame. Kane is a classic bad guy in
Pattersonian mode, a truly chilling, teeth-grinding
tension-producer. His project, Resurrection, is both evil and
ingenious. The reason Max doesn't tell, until it's almost too late,
is that she knows the likelihood of Resurrection is that none of
the bird-children will make it out alive. "Resurrection" is thus
the cruelest of ironies.

The plot is mostly all chase --- please recall what was said
earlier about fables being simple by design. During the chase there
are pauses, and bits of beauty and tenderness, that frequent
thriller readers will recognize as somewhat rare in the genre. In
spite of potential grimness, the story is not a downer. The
children's wings seem to be a symbol of hope so that I found myself
wondering if Mr. Patterson knows the Emily Dickinson poem: "Hope is
a thing with feathers/that sits inside the soul...."

THE LAKE HOUSE is a little gem. Taken together with WHEN THE WIND
BLOWS, which is already Patterson's bestselling book outside the
United States, this is a tale for the child in all adults --- the
child who delights in being scared by a story, all the more so when
that same story also makes the child feel loved.

Reviewed by Ava Dianne Day on January 22, 2011

The Lake House
by James Patterson

  • Publication Date: April 27, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 0446615145
  • ISBN-13: 9780446615143