Mo (mofic) wrote,

Recent Reading: The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman

A lighthearted romantic novel covering anti-Semitism, Jewish assimilation into American mainstream culture, and intermarriage, The Inn at Lake Devine is a fun read that combines Chick Lit and Jewish American literature. Natalie Marx is twelve years old in 1962 when she first encounters anti-Semitism. Her mother writes to a bunch of resorts in Vermont to find a place for the family's summer vacation. The letter from Ingrid Berry, innkeeper of the Inn at Lake Devine (which the author's note at the end points out that Lipman's real life mother received from a real inn) says, "Our guests who feel most comfortable here, and return year after year, are Gentiles." Natalie's mother rules out the Inn, not wanting to pay money to go where she's not wanted, but Natalie becomes obsessed with the place, sending harassing letters and contriving eventually to spend a week there at age 14 as the guest of a WASPy camp friend and her family. Natalie has a mostly miserable week and eventually loses touch with Robin, the friend whose family brought her there.

The action jumps ten years and Natalie is now working as a sous chef at a French restaurant when she meets up with Robin again. Robin is, it turns out, engaged to the elder Berry son and is getting married at the inn. Natalie returns to the place where she was rejected as a child as a wedding guest. Tragedy intervenes and the wedding never happens, but Natalie finds herself falling in love with the innkeepers' other son. The action moves among Natalie's Boston home, the Inn at Lake Devine, and a Jewish resort in the Catskills, as both Berry sons fall in love with Jewish women and the families - Jewish and Gentile - learn to adjust to this circumstance.

This is a lightweight novel. It has nothing particularly serious or profound to say about its potentially serious subject matter. Still, the characters are engaging, the plot developments fun, the cultural scenery of the two inns well described and the dialogue amusing. It's an enjoyable read, a fine book to take on vacation, perhaps to an inn.
Tags: reading
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