Returning from the American Library Association meeting in Chicago this past June, I sat in my aisle seat reading an advance review copy of Ann Patchett’s new novel, Tom Lake. As the airplane taxied on the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport tarmac, a man who sat near me asked, “Are you reading an Ann Patchett book? A new one?”
“Yes,” I said. He looked envious.
As a librarian, I wanted to give the book to him, but I hadn’t finished it yet.
Without ruining the plot for readers, I can tell you that the story takes place during summer 2020 on a Michigan cherry orchard. For the mother at the center of this novel, a dream has come true. It is the kind of dream that sometimes happens at Thanksgiving when all the adult children are unexpectedly around the dining room table with their parents. The three beautiful daughters, Emily, Maisie and Nell, are living at home again. Their colleges have closed because of COVID-19. Most of the orchard’s workers can’t pick that summer, so the girls and their mother are picking cherries.
For the mom, it’s the best of times. For the daughters, not so much.
What these young women demand for their labor are stories of their mother’s life as a young actress in summer stock. Readers, like her daughters, will be enchanted as these tales unfold.
Maureen Millea Smith is a retired librarian and Minnesota Book Award winning novelist.