Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Inn at Lake Devine

By Elinor Lipman
Natalie Marx and her family liked to vacation at a lake in Vermont. On the opposite shore of where they stayed was an inn that looked very inviting. So one year the mother wrote, asking about staying there. The response she received included the line, "Our guests who feel most comfortable here, and return year after year,  are Gentiles." In other words, no Jews.
Natalie, a young teen, was challenged and perturbed by this rebuff. The inn and its proprietors became a minor obsession. So at camp later, when one of her bunk mates mentioned that she and her family were going to be staying there, Natalie talked the girl, Robin, into inviting her along. And Natalie finally got to walk on forbidden ground.
The inn was a family-owned and operated concern. The father, Mr Berry, was a very nice, friendly man and his two sons were also personable and friendly. The problem was the wife, Mrs Berry. She was the one who ran the hotel, with Mr Berry and the boys as her assistants. And Mrs Berry was the one who had the no Jews policy. Although her antagonism was very subtle and not overt, still it was there and Natalie felt it.
A decade passes. Natalie lost contact with Robin. Then a camp reunion is proposed and in the course of events, Natalie learns that Robin works at a shoe store close by. She stops in to say hello and the two reconnect. Turns out Robin is getting married and the wedding is to be held at the Inn at Lake Devine and she invites Natalie to attend. So she does and it turns out to be one of the best and worst weeks of Natalie's life.

This story had it good points and its not-so-good points. I liked the Natalie character, she is amusing and smart and determined. I liked the Berrys, except for Mrs Berry. The plot is believable and interesting but I do wish the author could have done something other than kill off one of the characters, it took the story in a dark and unhappy direction. Also, the root of Mrs Berry's prejudice is never explored. And how the rest of the Berry family could not be aware of it, as they claimed: that part didn't ring true. And finally, the book was not as funny as I was hoping it would be. It had some amusing moments, but that is all.

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