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Review: Rules of the Lake by Irene Ziegler

Title: Rules of the Lake
Author: Irene Ziegler
Year Published: 1999

Genre: Adult Fiction (short stories)
Pages: 192
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2017 Google Reading map)USA (FL)

FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the author

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): The title story introduces us to the Bartlett family: nine-year-old Annie; rebellious and sullen Leigh, her older sister; philandering father, Ed; and their mother, Helen, whose drowning is the central mystery of the collection.

In "the Treasure Hunter's Daughter" Annie's father takes her with him to an abandoned dump on one of his many get-rich-quick schemes. When she's badly cut on a valuable bottle during the dig, she learns to her dismay that her father's first thought is to retrieve the bottle before taking care of the wound.

In "Cliffs Notes" Annie accompanies Leigh to a gay bar where Leigh judges a drag queen content and baits her English teacher who happens to be there. It is up to Annie to get herself and her sister out of harm's way when events get out of hand.

Rules of the Lake celebrates the power of childhood imagination in the midst of loss, love, and change. What Annie learns when she rolls her canoe--against her father rules--is that life is both exhilarating and dangerous. From these stories Ziegler fashioned a one-woman play that won the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award in Drama in 1997. It was first produced by Theater IV in Richmond, Virginia.

Review: I have guilt about this book. I read Ziegler's Ashes to Water almost seven years ago as part of a tour and then the author sent me this book to read. And I am just now getting to it! That is so pathetic on my part. I liked Ashes to Water so am not sure what made me wait so long to read this one.

The book is a series of short stories that create one continuous long story. Well, not exactly continuous. Each one skips ahead in time, but they are narrated by the same girl, Annie, and are about her experiences with her family and the people she knows. Annie is a typical 10-year-old in that she doesn't completely know what's going on, but she has some good guesses. She is old enough to do things on her own, but not old enough to be good at most of them. Seeing the world through her eyes in the 1960s and '70s is interesting.

Annie's life isn't easy. Her dad drinks too much and doesn't have much ambition, her drowns when Annie is young, and her sister just wants to get the heck out of there. The constant and connecting factor is the lake at the end of their back yard. Most of the stories feature the lake in some way, whether Annie is fishing, swimming in it, watching it, or avoiding it.

I wasn't completely captivated by this book, but I think it was a good concept. When I don't love a book I always wonder if I just wasn't in the right mood for it.

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