Book Review: Up at Butternut Lake
By: Mary McNear
Published By: William Morrow
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Page Count: 384
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Audience: Adult - Contemporary, Women's Fiction
It's always nice to clean my reading palate when it gets too saturated with YA reads. During these moments, I find myself gravitating towards adult contemporaries and the occasional New Adult novel. I was originally drawn to this one because I love novels that have an element of summer romance. I was also intrigued by the summary and wanted to know more about Allie.
Allie is a young widow who lost her husband to the war in Afghanistan. His death leaves a void in her heart and life. She clings to her young son, Wyatt, and throws everything into being his mother. She can't escape the memories of her late husband and decides to start fresh in a cabin on the shore of Butternut Lake that meant so much to her as a child. She worries that uprooting Wyatt from all he has ever known might be a bad decision, but she soon finds that his five year old self is far more resilient than she could have ever imagined. The small town provides just the sort of comfort the two need to move on with their lives.
In addition to Allie and Wyatt, the town has several other residents whose stories drive the narrative. Jax, is an old friend of Allie's, who appears to have the perfect life, but is harboring dark secrets from her past. Caroline owns the local diner and is attempting to deal with her daughter leaving for college. Finally, Walker is the handsome, brooding owner of the local boatyard. Each of these people will have a huge impact on Allie and Wyatt. I loved how connected the people in this town were throughout the novel. It made me slightly envious of those who live in small towns, but I also know a town that small has drawbacks. For example, secrets are rarely kept. Everyone knows everything about everybody.
The complex issues of grief, loss, and forgiveness were slightly unexpected. I was thinking this would be just your typical summer chick lit with a little sadness thrown in since one of the main characters is a widow. I found that while there are some light moments, this was a more serious novel than a summer fling. I liked the substance. It was a nice change of pace for me. I can't really call this one chick lit because I feel like those books are fun and fluffy reads.
I loved the relationships in this novel. They felt realistic and I was wrapped up in these lives. I kept reading because I was compelled to know how things would end up. The romance was slightly predictable, but that didn't make it less enjoyable to read. I also liked that McNear did have some steamy parts, but she left a lot to the imagination. I'm not a fan of super explicit intimate scenes in novels.
In addition, I found this setting to be somewhat magical. Butternut Lake is a place I'd love to visit, but if my initial research is correct, it doesn't exist. I'm sure I could find some small lake community in Northern Minnesota that could mimic the town in the novel. I have never been to Minnesota so this was certainly a mental vacation for me. I love how books can transport me to other places. It's much cheaper than a plane ticket.
Up at Butternut Lake is the first in a series. I'll certainly be looking forward to the next book. While this one offers a sense of closure, I know that Allie, Wyatt, Walker, Jax, and Caroline have more stories to tell. I can't wait to spend more time on the shores of Butternut Lake.
One Last Gripe: I was frustrated about the conflict between Jax and Jeremy. It could have been so easily prevented. I hope that we get to see how they progress through their issues in future books.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I loved so much about the book, but one of my favorite aspects was Wyatt. He is such a sweet kid and he cracked me up.
First Sentence: "Okay, sleepyhead, time to wake up," Allie said, reaching into the backseat of the car and giving her five-year-old son, Wyatt, a gentle prod.
Favorite Character: Allie
Least Favorite Character: Bobby
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….