The Boy and the Lake starts in the summer of 1967. While out fishing, 16 year old Benjamin (Ben) Baum shockingly discovers the body of Helen Lowenthal, a beloved member of the suburban New Jersey lake community he lives in, emerging lifeless in the water. So begins a haunting and touching coming-of-age story of a young man who is deeply impacted by this incident.
Helen held a special place in Ben’s heart. The married mother of two was the local tennis champion and had shown great kindness to his seriously ill, younger sister Bernice. One day, after giving a lesson to Ben, Helen spent time with Bernice and helped her hit one perfect topspin forehand that brought smiles to the gravely sick girl and tears to their mother Lillian. While Bernice passed away soon after, Ben never forgot that day. Being the person who found Helen’s body created a deep sorrow as well as a desire to find out what truly caused her death as he didn’t believe it was an accident, as it was ruled.
After Bernice's death, Ben and his family make Red Meadow Lake their permanent home, leaving Newark, which was experiencing riots and racial unrest. Red Meadow Lake attracted mostly Jewish families who had been unable to live in area’s other similar and mostly restricted communities. As Ben spends more time in his new home, he starts to learn more about his own family as well as his neighbors. He is conflicted by all that he discovers. While this is Ben’s touching story, this is also a good murder mystery, which unravels in a surprising way.
Author Adam Pelzman has created a fascinating group of characters led by Ben, who is carefully analyzing everyone around him. What he observes is often quite funny as well as tragic. The sense of place is perfect. And I should know. I immediately recognized the lake community which inspired Red Meadow Lake as I had visited it as a child. And I ended up moving close by as an adult. The author’s references to the cultural nuances in a Jewish community in this time period was incredibly accurate.
I would like to thank the author for providing me with a copy of this poignant, memorable, well-written book. So glad I read it and I’m very happy to recommend it.
Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Crime Fiction / Family Saga.
Publication Date: October 7, 2020.
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