From the award-winning author of the acclaimed story collection The Heaven of Animals, called “a wise debut…beautiful [stories] with a rogue touch” (The New York Times Book Review), comes a sweeping, domestic novel about a family that reunites at their North Carolina lake house for one last vacation before the home is sold—and the long-buried secrets that are finally revealed.
The Starling family is scattered across the country. Parents Richard and Lisa live in Ithaca, New York, and work at Cornell University. Their son Michael, a salesperson, lives in Dallas with his elementary school teacher wife, Diane. Michael’s brother, Thad, an aspiring poet, makes his home in New York City with his famous painter boyfriend, Jake. For years they’ve traveled to North Carolina to share a summer vacation at the family lake house.
That tradition is coming to an end, as Richard and Lisa have decided to sell the treasured summer home and retire to Florida. Before they do, the family will spend one last weekend at the lake. But what should to be a joyous farewell takes a nightmarish turn when the family witnesses a tragedy that triggers a series of dramatic revelations among the Starlings—alcoholism, infidelity, pregnancy, and a secret the parents have kept from their sons for over thirty years. As the weekend unfolds, relationships fray, bonds are tested, and the Starlings are forced to reckon with who they are and what they want from this life.
Set in today’s America, Lake Life is a beautifully rendered, emotionally compelling novel in the tradition of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, and Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth.
About the Author
David James Poissant is the author of The Heaven of Animals: Stories, in print in five languages, winner of the GLCA New Writers Award and a Florida Book Award, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and longlisted for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, One Story, Ploughshares, The Southern Review, and in numerous anthologies including New Stories from the South, Best New American Voices, and Best American Experimental Writing. A recipient of scholarships and fellowships from the Bread Loaf, Sewanee, Tin House, Wesleyan, and Longleaf writers’ conferences, he teaches in the MFA program at the University of Central Florida and lives in Orlando with his wife and daughters. Lake Life is his first novel.
"If your household’s summer vacation was canceled this year, console and distract yourself with Lake Life, the tale of a family getaway gone very wrong...The novel is less concerned with the origins of dysfunction than with how it plays out...There’s a lot of bad behavior here, perhaps because Poissant is so good at writing it. His prose throughout is sure-footed and intelligent...[He] also leaves room for absorbing discussions of art, the socioeconomics of vacation property development, and religion."—Jean Thompson for The New York Times Book Review
"Lake Life establishes Poissant as one of the South’s best new writers working today. It is a dazzling work that is so confidently crafted, so keenly perceptive and so deeply compassionate, it’s hard to believe it was written by someone this early in his career."—Suzanne Van Atten, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Masterfully crafted...Simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious, the novel's brisk pace and perfectly executed moments make for a stunning, unforgettable story...Poissant's compassion for his characters generates empathy for even their most disastrous actions. A totally engrossing story of the long shadows cast by troubled relationships and the glimmer of hope that dawns after painful confrontation." —Booklist (starred review)
"Poissant demonstrates superb talent for observation, cultivating a familiar, lived-in feeling of the family’s lake house, where each character’s unique viewpoint emerges powerfully and their everyday interactions gain greater significance. This is a remarkable, moving depiction of a family on the brink." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Poissant is one of our most talented local writers and we've been waiting for this, his first novel, for what feels like a very long time. If 2020 did nothing else good, at least it brought us this book." —Orlando Weekly (Staff Pick and Best Book of 2020)
“Lake Life is a lyrically inventive and emotionally generous novel. Poissant is a gifted chronicler of the fault lines that lie just below family life.” —Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation and the New York Times bestseller Weather
“A beautiful story about family and especially about the paradox of adult children. Vividly imagined and carefully rendered, Lake Life is both generous and unflinching. I loved every member of this functionally dysfunctional cast.”—Karen Joy Fowler, author of the New York Times bestsellers The Jane Austen Book Club and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
"By turns moving, tender, and wryly funny, this gorgeously-written ensemble novel about the unspoken dreams and secrets and self-deceptions of a middle class family is deeply insightful and rewarding. David James Poissant is a young writer to watch!" —Dan Chaon, author of Ill Will
“Lake Life is an absolute wonder. By turns tender and wrenching, gorgeous and haunting, it explores what can emerge from the wake of tragedy and the depths of love. David James Poissant is a writer of the highest order, and this stunning novel is one readers will never forget.”—Bret Anthony Johnston, author of the international bestseller Remember Me Like This
“Lake Life is a beautifully written, expertly told novel about family and tragedy and love and loss. I was gripped from the very first page, and wanted desperately to know what would become of the Starling family and their lives. David James Poissant captures so beautifully the tangled love between parents and children, and how that love evolves and unfolds over time. That kind of love is not without consequence, and Poissant explores with dazzling prose and insight just how maddening and hopeful the bonds of family can be. Lake Life is a page-turner—I read it in one long sitting, resentful of interruption—and when it ended I mourned the absence of the Starling parents and children and their spouses, and wished them well. I loved this book.” —Anton DiSclafani, New York Times bestselling author of The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls and The After Party
"When you find yourself thinking about a novel's characters well after you've finished reading it, wondering about them and how they're doing as though they were friends of yours, family, it means that you've found something truly special: one of those books that's not just about life but somehow contains it. Poissant's characters linger just that hauntingly, and his novel breathes with just that kind of life."—Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Brief History of the Dead and The Illumination
“Poissant has written us a book that reveals the danger and the pain, the humor and the love affairs of our everyday lives as a thrilling high stakes adventure. Every moment in Lake Life is so full of tension that I could never find a good place to stop reading...so I stayed up late to finish instead. Here is a dysfunctional family I was rooting for even as I clapped my hands over my face and watched them choose wrong again and again. A humane and wise book about a family getting into all sorts of trouble. I am obsessed with the Starlings.” —CJ Hauser, author of The From-Aways and Family of Origin
“Lake Life is a terrific story, one that, over the course of a long weekend shadowed by random tragedy, delves into a family’s messy history, and finds there not only pain, but—thrillingly—stubborn survival, hope, and love. The Starling family will be with me a long time. I’m grateful for this book.” —Christopher Coake, author of You Came Back, winner of the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Fellowship and one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists 2
“David James Poissant’s first novel is a model of how to render the souls of his many equally delineated and dramatized characters. Told in stirring language, it is the complex story of contemporary Americans, each dealing with a brand of loss: of children, of youth, of self-control, and of destiny. Here is a book that is heartbreaking and true, lilting and swooping, dark and light, wry and touching."—Michael Carroll, winner of the 2015 Sue Kaufman Prize and author of Little Reef and Stella Maris