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Posted: March 7, 2021

Mystery takes a number of different journeys

Book Review

By Derryll White

Celona, Marjorie (2020).  How A Woman Becomes A Lake.

The wind could shift and you could find yourself, alone and homeless, at the edge of the

            world. – Evelina

This book can be classified as a mystery, but a lot different from Mickey Spillane, Robert B. Parker or even Henning Mankell. Marjorie Celona is very literary in her approach and story development. There are no certified bad guys or P.I.’s.  ‘How A Woman Becomes A Lake’ creates believable, every day kind of characters and asks the reader to think about the ways in which those we love fail us.  This is a very personal novel.

The author tells a surprising story, with the perspective shifting between characters.  One thing Celona does differently from most mystery writers is to give children a clear voice.  It may be harder for some readers to listen seriously to young people as they narrate, but it is a skill most parents and teachers have developed.  The readers of this novel have to listen to the children.

There are a number of different journeys that Marjorie Celona takes the reader on.  All come together at the end of the story, interacting as have the characters, to invite the reader to explore how family dynamics really work.


Excerpts from the novel:

MEN – This is the kind of thing that happens when you have children before you’ve done all you set out to do, she thought.  She knew in that moment that Leo was starting to hate Jesse, and possibly her, too – that for some men having a family had a dangerous side, that marriage and children could create a counterblast of sorrow, of disappointment, of rage.

KIDS – So much of the time, he didn’t enjoy his sons.  He loved them – that wasn’t it – but the grind of it; washing their sticky hands after they’d eaten something; getting their jackets on, finding their socks, making sure they had snacks – it exhausted him.  It was tedious.

MYSTERIES – I had things I wanted to talk to you about, Vera.  There were things I didn’t know about you.  Little things.  Little mysteries I wanted to clear up.  I wanted to ask you but – you can never be that direct with people you know.  You can’t ask people the questions you truly want to ask.  Vera?  Who did you wish I was?  Who did you wish you were?  What are the ways in which I disappointed you?  What were the ways in which you disappointed yourself?  Why did you look at me the way you did, eyes not exactly full of love?

CHILDREN – She understands, now, why people have children.

It is because we fail as ourselves, all of us fail.  But we have a secret plan, a subconscious desire within us to become something astonishing, like the caterpillar that unwittingly becomes a butterfly.  And, so, knowing that we will fail as ourselves, what we do instead is make something astonishing.  We make our children in an effort to remake ourselves.

– Derryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them.  When not reading he writes history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.

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