The House Across the Lake, by Riley Sager

After her husband’s death, Casey’s life falls apart. Her mother sends her to their family vacation home on a remote Vermont lake, to keep her away from the paparazzi and hopefully dry out. But Casey has no interest in drying out. She’ll drink her days into a stupor one after another, trying to forget, trying not to relive all those memories, trying not to feel. And along with bourbon comes another distraction – the drama of her neighbors across the lake, their fights brought into painful clarity by a pair of high-powered binoculars.

I’m struggling with my thoughts about this book. I was warned beforehand that something about it was off, though to explain more (the person warning me said) would be to give away the surprises of the book. So I went in wary, especially as I’ve had mixed experiences with Sager’s books in the past. And at first, I’ll give him this: He took three very tired thriller tropes (a wealthy secluded lake setting; a female narrator that no one trusts because she drinks too much; and blatant spying on neighbors, leading to witnessing Something Bad) and made them all feel rather fresh. I quite liked the book for a good chunk. The mystery was intriguing, and I felt like there was more nuance in the interplay of characters within those tropes.

Mild spoilers to follow.

Then came the last 100 pages of the book, which veered entirely into new waters. Very thin, weak waters that not only strayed past suspension of disbelief, but threw in some casual “spooky indigenous wisdom” garbage for good measure. The book would’ve been better if it had kept with the original story rather than diving into exploitative paranormal territory. Hell, it would’ve been better if it had avoided the paranormal altogether at that point, and I say that as someone who actually LOVES paranormal elements in books. I love vaguely paranormal aspects that may or may not have perfectly rational or mental explanations, and I love blatant paranormal elements that barrel past suspension of disbelief into ghost-story territory. This book? Definitely would’ve been better without. It was going so well up to that point!!

Toward the end, the book suddenly veers back on its original course, then collides the two stories together in a rather over-the-top climax, but honestly, at that point, I wasn’t sure what to feel. I think if the paranormal bits had just been paranormal bits, I would have been disappointed and labeled the book as “not great but good enough.” Add in the ooky-spooky-native-tribes bit, though, and it was just…distasteful. And extra disappointing, because those first 243 pages were really, really good.


About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
This entry was posted in 2022, Adult, Prose and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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