On Mystic Lake
by Kristin Hannah, contemporary (2000)
Ballantine, $6.99, ISBN 0-449-14967-6
Kristin Hannah has written some of my all-time keepers, especially The Enchantment. She can make me laugh and cry with one swoop of lyrical prose, and her characters are never short of memorable. When she goes mainstream, I'm pretty excited, as I'm such she's going to create some sort of masterpiece. Unfortunately, On Mystic Lake is one big, thick cliché. Not only has the author lost her distinctive voice, she is in danger of being buried under the million Women's Fiction books out there that has taken the same old weary, potholed, and downtrodden path.
On Mystic Lake follows the formula rigidly:
(a) Woman blissfully married, spent her life catering to hubby and daughter, and is shocked when hubby dumps her for a prettier, newer doormat.
(b) Woman runs back to daddy/mommy (in this case, daddy) who lives in a nice, idyllic, rural, homespun town. Hello Mystic. Weeps, weeps, weeps, until the obligatory I Am Woman realization when she finally pulls herself together to look for her love interest in the story.
(c) Meets hero. But oh, she's hurt, can she love again? He, too, is hurt, can he love again? After a tentative courtship, they boink and exchange vows of forever.
(d) Hubby comes back on his knees, asking her to return to him. After all, this is Women's Fiction, we all know how ex-hubbies-to-be are always wrong (the world's greatest revenge fantasy). Woman is torn. But she returns to him, whatever her reason (family, obligation, etc, but I won't spoil the reason of this heroine's return here).
(e) Finally, in time for the grand epilogue, heroine runs back to the hero who is right there waiting for her. The woman's life is now complete - she has a Good Man and she learns never to be a Doormat again. Everyone can sleep easy now.
Of course, Ms Hannah tries her best to add some life into her uninspired story. The hero, Nick, is an alcoholic, but dang it, that man takes an eternity to pull himself together. And the heroine Annie is the ultimate Women's Fiction heroine - she has no idea how to live life in any way but utter subservience. Sorry, I believe the PC term is "caretaking". Annie arrives in Mystic and immediately takes in her best friend's daughter Izzie (who's mute - the obligatory Awww factor). Izzie's dad is Nick. Hello, rebound affair.
I love Izzie, I really do, who is really a touchingly damaged girl. But everyone else is from Boring City, and boredom piled upon déja vü makes this reader zzzzzzz...
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