The Butternut Lake Trilogy. HarperCollins (April 2014) TLC Tours
In the spirit of Kristin Hannah and Susan Wiggs, comes this debut novel-the first in an unforgettable new series by Mary McNear
It's been ten years since Allie Beckett crossed the threshold of her family cabin at Butternut Lake, Minnesota. Now, newly widowed after the death of her husband in Afghanistan, she's returned with her five-year-old son.
There, she reconnects with the friends she had in childhood-best girlfriend Jax, now married with three kids and one on the way, and Caroline, owner of the local coffee shop. What Allie doesn't count on is a newcomer to Butternut Lake, Walker Ford.Up at Butternut Lake follows these four unforgettable characters across a single summer as they struggle with love, loss, and what it means to take risks, confront fears, and embrace life, in all of its excitement and unpredictability.Allie Beckett could never have imagined, when she ran away from her old life, that she was running into a whole new life, up at the lake….
An author's ability to construct experiences, emotions, and personalities in characters that aren't even real, but are made real by something as simple and complicated as their imagination, is the reason I fall desperately in love with books like this one. It's always characters in a story that make a book worth reading. With Up at Butternut Lake, the lives of four people are explored across one summer in the small town of Butternut. Surprisingly, although the summary suggests otherwise, I found myself reading through four POV's. There was something incredibly convincing about these particular lives that made me truly believe in them and their stories. There is so much hope and fear that I could see these characters being actual people in real life, and it might also be because I've been reading too much science fiction but, nevertheless I loved the characters portrayed in this book.
Allie lost her husband two years ago in Afghanistan. After countless pitying glances and encouraging words to move on she's had enough of her old town. She decides to move her and her 5 year old son, Wyatt, to an old family cabin at Butternut Lake where she spent her summers as a young girl. Allie felt very straight forward for me until the last parts of the book. She was clearly conflicted with her growing feelings for a man who was not her husband. And even after two years had passed since her husband died I felt I understood her motivation for everything she did. She didn't want to get hurt and at the same time she couldn't let go of someone she will always love who passed too soon. Her motivation was clear but towards the end to me she acted foolish. However, I realize that she was doing what she was always doing - putting herself and her son before anything else. It was nice when she opened up to Walker and started to finally let go. Letting go felt like the obstacle she needed to face the most while Walker's was facing the exact same thing.
Walker ends up being someone much more interesting than I could have hoped for. He's supposed to be this dangerously handsome man who keeps to himself. He has a business with his brother selling boats which in the book is much fancier than you would think. It sounds like he's going to be a cliché but in fact he's got his own demons he's been living with - guilt being the main one. It was fascinating figuring out who he really is and the way he thought about Allie. He saw Allie as beautiful right away even if she didn't even seem to notice him. Their relationship was at times smooth sailing while at others times there was some tension. Overall their romance was sweet and patient. There was some moments where sex played a factor but it's a book geared towards adults so it's expected. I liked how Walker genuinely cared about Allie and her son. Wyatt was always very quiet, independent, and uncomplaining like his mother which Walker saw in him right away. He was quick to care about him and Allie as a whole which is nice since Allie is a single mother and all. She clearly wants her son to be happy so to have Walker care too really bumped him up in my mind.
The two other story lines are Caroline, a coffee shop owner and Jax, Allie's best friend when they were teenagers. Caroline is like the wise old woman that gives great advice although she isn't that old. Her daughter is leaving to college soon and she can't help feeling overwhelmed by it all. I loved their obvious bond for each other. The next book centers on them which should be fun especially since compared to the other story lines she was in the background. Jax's story is the one I was so surprised I ended up loving. Maybe because Jax has secrets she's keeping from everyone and they are about to come out. Also, Jax, her husband Jeremy, and her three daughters are all great people. They are all very kind that I couldn't help feel for her situation. And boy is she in trouble...
I really got invested in these characters and their lives. These great characters followed by such interesting plots and an awesome small town setting made me really enjoy reading Up at Butternut Lake. I plan to read the rest of the trilogy to see where McNear takes Caroline and her daughter's relationship.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours, the author, and HarperCollins for letting me read and review Up at Butternut Lake in exchange for an honest review!