I can’t think of an audiobook I’ve enjoyed more than Tom Lake, narrated by the incomparable Meryl Streep.
This was also my first book by the brilliant Ann Patchett and it is a quintessentially summer read. I was enraptured by the story of Lara, a small-town New England girl who once had a promising Hollywood career. Now married with three grown daughters, she recounts the story of her long-ago affair with Peter Duke, who went on to become a wildly famous movie star.
Lara and her family are quarantining together during the early days of the pandemic on the family’s cherry tree farm in Michigan. The author paints a rapturous picture of Michigan in the summer, and it is easy to see how Lara chose this life and the life she made with her husband Joe. As well, Lara finds unexpected joy in the family all being together during this time (“𝘐 𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘫𝘰𝘺 𝘪𝘴 𝘪𝘯𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘱𝘳𝘪𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘴𝘦 𝘥𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘵𝘪𝘭𝘭, 𝘸𝘦 𝘧𝘦𝘦𝘭 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘸𝘦 𝘧𝘦𝘦𝘭.”) I literally felt like I was in the cherry orchards with Lara, due in large part to Maryl Streep’s compelling narration!
Ann Patchett has also written a beautiful essay about unexpected Covid friendships which I read after I finished this book. And because she is also a bookseller, she has made some fascinating comments on book release dates and why she pushed for an August release date for Tom Lake. This was the perfect book as my last one of August 2023.
This beautiful story draws many parallels to Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, which plays a central role in many of the important events in Lara’s life. Tom Lake is a wonderful meditation on love, youth and family, and I can’t recommend it highly enough!
About the Book:
In the spring of 2020, Lara’s three daughters return to the family’s orchard in Northern Michigan. While picking cherries, they beg their mother to tell them the story of Peter Duke, a famous actor with whom she shared both a stage and a romance years before at a theater company called Tom Lake. As Lara recalls the past, her daughters examine their own lives and relationship with their mother, and are forced to reconsider the world and everything they thought they knew.
Tom Lake is a meditation on youthful love, married love, and the lives parents have led before their children were born. Both hopeful and elegiac, it explores what it means to be happy even when the world is falling apart. As in all of her novels, Ann Patchett combines compelling narrative artistry with piercing insights into family dynamics. The result is a rich and luminous story, told with profound intelligence and emotional subtlety, that demonstrates once again why she is one of the most revered and acclaimed literary talents working today.