Ann Leary: The Children (2016)


Lakeside, the ancestral home of our narrator’s stepfather feels familiar. I can hear their noisy cicadas and the slap of the tide against the gravelly sand. I can picture how the dogs shadow the second-generation groundskeeper, whose childhood and early adulthood is entwined with the tenants of the home.

Charlotte and her sister Sally are even more entwined to the property: their mother, Joan, marries the owner of Lakeside. A monied New England eccentric, Whit Whitman loves banjo and not exchanging money for goods and services. Their families blend. Charlotte details crannies and hide-outs with the affection only someone can have of their childhood home. She is someone who notices how light migrates across curtains and how well-worn the silverware is. She also panics when she leaves.

However, the rightful heirs to the home are Whit’s sons from his first marriage. The youngest is an infant when Joan and Whit marry, and he seamlessly grows up alongside the daughters. The novel references moments from the past, both large and small, and that nostalgia is necessary to feel the pinch of the present.

These adult children must navigate the future of the property now that Whit’s passed, along with their perceptions of one another. They’re older, defined by new romantic relationships, careers, and their own children. Of course, not all is as it seems, and perceptions of one another are challenged. Old secrets, lingering feelings, and promises of new beginnings unearth how comfortable and cobwebby Lakeside has become. ↪ Learn More