Lake Overturn

( 10 )


A Washington Post Best Book of the year
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

Eula, Idaho, has never seen a battle, an earthquake, or a Democrat in City Hall. Yet life here is anything but simple.

Lina's angry son Jesús has recently returned to the trailer park after living with wealthy white foster parents. Her younger son Enrique and his best friend, Gene—who lives in a neighboring trailer with his ...

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Lake Overturn: A Novel

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A Washington Post Best Book of the year
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

Eula, Idaho, has never seen a battle, an earthquake, or a Democrat in City Hall. Yet life here is anything but simple.

Lina's angry son Jesús has recently returned to the trailer park after living with wealthy white foster parents. Her younger son Enrique and his best friend, Gene—who lives in a neighboring trailer with his very Christian mother, Connie—are misfits who cling to their studies in the face of schoolyard cruelties. Determined to win the statewide science fair, Enrique and Gene devise an experiment involving "lake overturn," a phenomenon in which deadly gases erupt from a lake's depths. In their endeavor to discover if Eula could suffer from such an event, the boys come into contact with an odd assortment of locals—including a frail-hearted school principal with grand ambitions, a lonely lawyer who finds new love as his wife is dying, and a woman who decides to escape a life of exploitation and addiction by becoming a surrogate mother.

With sweeping perspective and a Victorian wealth of character, Lake Overturn exposes small-town America in all its beauty and treachery, sunshine and secrets.

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Editorial Reviews

Out Magazine
“Richly imagined and fully realized, Overturn has given us what we didn’t know we were waiting for: the next Great Idahoan Novel.”
New York Times Book Review
“Striking. . . . An author is lucky to bring one character so vividly to life: the gifted McIntyre...has done it for all of his. It may seem odd praise for a writer, but it’s among the highest: as you drink in this book, you barely notice the words.”
Philadelphia Gay News
“This astonishing novel — a great big captivating, multi-character drama set in Eula, Idaho — has McIntyre juggling a half-dozen intersecting plots and people with extraordinary grace.”
Denver Post
“[A] nicely handled exploration of the world’s effect on the tightly woven life of a small town driven by faith.”
Washington Post
“A vast, intricate lattice of relationships, reminiscent of the novels of Richard Russo. . . . McIntyre is an honest enough artist that he [is] . . . capable of handling even the most noxious elements when he stirs his American backwater.”
Washington Post Book World
A Best Book of 2009
Q Syndicate
“[A] deliriously colorful and deliciously engrossing tapestry of a small-town’s depressing poverty, pointless pettiness, quirky rivalries, domestic infidelities, desperate drug use, onerous class and race divisions – and occasional quiet, sentimental triumphs.”
Ron Rash
Lake Overturn is a lovingly rendered portrait of small-town America. Vestal McIntyre knows his people intimately—how they speak, their manners and customs; but, most importantly, he knows their troubled hearts, and he plumbs the depths of those hearts with remarkable empathy and wisdom.”
Peter Cameron
“Reading Vestal McIntyre’s deliriously ambrosial novel is like entering reader’s heaven. Constantly surprising. . . . I loved it.”
Adam Haslett
“What a great relief [it is] to read Vestal McIntyre’s splendid first novel. . . . Lake Overturn is loving and searing and sad and, above all, a pleasure to read.”
Kate Christensen
“Every character in [Lake Overturn] is so real, complex, and interesting, the scope of the novel at once so wide and so deep, the themes and ideas so thoroughly embodied by the story, I felt as if I were reading a modern-day Middlemarch.”
Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow
An author is lucky to bring one character so vividly to life; the gifted McIntyre…has done it for all of his. It may seem odd praise for a writer, but it's among the highest: as you drink in this book, you barely notice the words.
—The New York Times
Stephen Amidon
In Lake Overturn, McIntyre has created a vast, intricate lattice of relationships, reminiscent of the novels of Richard Russo…[McIntyre has] a real talent for characterization and an ability to capture the dramas lurking beneath Eula's deceptively still waters.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

McIntyre's absorbing but flawed debut novel (after the collection You Are Not the One) opens with a lyrical account of a mysterious event in 1986, when, overnight, all the creatures-animals, insects and 1,700 people-living around Lake Nyos in Cameroon died. In far-off Idaho, two seventh-grade misfits-Enrique, silently coming to terms with his homosexuality, and mildly autistic Gene-decide to report on this event for their science fair project. Eventually, the boys, longtime neighbors and friends, become estranged as Gene fixates on the phenomenon. Meanwhile, Enrique's mother becomes involved with a married man whose house she cleans, and Gene's devoutly religious mother, who considers herself still married to a husband who abandoned her years ago, struggles with her attraction to a new man. McIntyre portrays one year in the life of these and other characters in fictional Eula, Idaho, including Enrique's older brother, a pair of high school students and an unconvincing drug addict who hopes to become a surrogate mother. Each character seeks the love or connection that will counter their loneliness, and while the individual story lines are finely crafted, they fail to add up to a satisfying whole. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

The unusual thing about McIntyre's debut is its division into sections corresponding to the six steps of the scientific method, a structure that gives support to the various stories of Eula, ID, residents in the 1980s. Two adolescent boys are at the center of the story. Gene and Enrique are smart and bookish and perfect misfits in a school full of bullies and mental lightweights. A science fair project dominates their lives; they want to replicate a phenomenon called a lake overturn. At Lake Nyos in Cameroon, unknown gases from the lake floor were released so rapidly that they enveloped surrounding houses and towns within minutes, silently killing thousands of people. Using the scientific method, Gene and Enrique's crude diorama demonstrates how a similar event could happen near Eula at Lake Overlook. Step seven, the presentation, becomes an epilog resolving many of the entanglements that have kept us engrossed from the beginning. Maybe McIntyre is suggesting that life in Eula is one big scientific experiment, but he illuminates with humor and sympathy the mundane lives of group of vivid characters.
—Donna Bettencourt

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061671265
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/29/2010
  • Pages: 443
  • Sales rank: 1,002,867
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Vestal McIntyre's story collection, You Are Not the One, won a Lambda Literary Award and earned him fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2013


    I love it...its getting really good!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2013

    After the War

    Warriors - Cry to the Stars
    Book One: After the War

    Foxleap led the way out of camp, Wolfpaw at his heels. Cherryfrost and Nightpaw padded after him, and the four cats started out of the stone hollow.
    Foxleap breathed in the fresh forest scents, his amber eyes lighting up at the scent of prey. Leaf-fall was not far off, but plenty of prey was still to be found in the woodland. Sunlight shone on his russet fur, making it blaze the color of sunset. Shaking himself, ThunderClan's deputy trotted off into the trees, the others following.
    Nightpaw bounded ahead, his sleek black shape weaving easily through the trees. Wolfpaw darted after him, awkwardly because of his twisted paw.
    The two mentors followed their eager apprentices to the mossy clearing. Foxleap saw Fatepaw gathering some marigold on the other side of the clearing, and waved his tail in greeting to the medicine cat apprentice. The gray tabby agknowledged him with a flick of one ear, before turning back to the herbs he was gathering.
    Nightpaw bounced around, letting out a small squeak of excitement and chasing his tail in a circle. Then, looking embarrassed, the small black tom straighted himself up, giving his chest a few quick licks. Wolfpaw stood beside him, amber eyes shining.
    "Ready to start?" Foxleap meowed, and both apprentices nodded eagerly.
    "Okay," the red tabby purred. "I want you both to watch us carefully, and then you can try out the move on each other!" Turning to Cherryfrost, he meowed, "Ready?"
    The ginger shecat didn't look at him. She stared off into the distance, her green gaze blank.
    "Cherryfrost?" Foxleap echoed, tipping his head.
    The ginger shecat shook herself, jumping to her senses. "What? Oh, sorry. Um, what were we doing?"
    Nightpaw and Wolfpaw stared in confusion at the puzzled warrior, and Foxleap blinked in bewilderment. "We were going to show the apprentices a battle move," the russet tabby explained.
    "Oh, okay," Cherryfrost mewed, looking distracted again.
    "Attack me," Foxleap said, as the ginger shecat got into a crouching position. Nightpaw and Wolfpaw watched intently as the reddish tom dropped into a crouch, his white-tipped tail sweeping the mossy ground.
    Cherryfrost leaped at him, her paws outstreatched. Foxleap rolled away, and the ginger shecat landed akwardly on the ground, giving him the chance to pin her down with one red forepaw. Cherryfrost lay limp, clearly in defeat.
    Foxleap frowned. Hadn't he taught his former apprentice better than that? What was bothering her?
    The Clan deputy released Cherryfrost, and the ginger shecat scrambled akwardly to her paws, green eyes blank. Fatepaw had padded over, a bunch of marigold leaves in his jaws and a worried look in his blue eyes.
    "What's wrong?" Fatepaw asked, dropping his bundle on the mossy ground and glancing at Cherryfrost.
    "Nothing, nothing!" Cherryfrost mewed sadly, her ginger tail flicking back and fourth in aggitation.
    Foxleap rested his tail-tip on the shecat's shoulder, and meowed quietly, "Why don't you go hunting? Maybe it'll help take you mind off things."
    Cherryfrost nodded, looking relieved. Flashing him a grateful look, the ginger warrior darted off into the forest.
    "I'll ask Jayfeather to check on her when I get back to camp," Fatepaw informed Foxleap.
    "Okay," the red tom meowed, watching the medicine cat apprentice padd away. Squaring his shoulders, Foxleap turned back to the waiting apprentices.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2013


    Wow. Good job. -Jaysoar

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  • Posted July 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Lake Overturn

    Lake Overturn is a look at Small-town, USA and the loneliness of lives people lead. Although, it deals with two boys who are determined to win a science fair by explain a phenomenon within their lake. The characters are well developed and Vestal McIntyre writes well, but somehow I still felt disconnected. Maybe because it was more like a bunch of short stories then a cohesive novel.

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  • Posted May 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    LAke Overturn- Vestal McIntyre

    This is a strange novel, filled with various dysfunctions and disabilities: Wanda, the druggie who wants to redeem her life by serving as a surrogate for a couple so open and "modern" that one suspects they might consider an unusual way of implanting the sperm. There is Gene, probably autistic, who is lost in the shuffle as the complex plot unwinds; Enrique, gay but in denial, sometimes; Jay, (aka Jesus), a decent basketball player who cannot avoid gangster activities and Connie, a religious zealot who cannot escape the illogic of much of what she believes. This whole cast is contained in a little town, Eula, Idaho, and it is remarkable that there is as little mayhem as there is in the plot. The lake of the title is actually not a lake but a function of a lake in which gases trapped at the bottom of the lake "overturn"-they come to the surface. Gene's solution to a lake disaster in remote Cameroon turns out to be correct: the lake "overturned" and carbon monoxide escaped, killing hundreds. He and Enrique are to use the principle in a science fair but Gene bails and Enrique wins the science fair. What has that to do with the plot? It's a metaphor for the town. There are issues underneath the surface that cause great damage when the town, or lake, overturns.
    This is a novel of character, not events, though there are some emotional rippers going on: Enrique's mother's affair with her employer who has a daughter that Enrique might give up gayness for; Connie's near-affair with a missionary; Jay's pursuit of Liv, one of the "good"girls in Eula, through notes in the library-all of which impact in various ways in ripples through the town. Do not expect big bangs and crises here; it is enough that McIntyre has portrayed a small town whose temper is fragile, like most small towns, limned through characters that strangely reverberate for the reader even after the last page is turned. Let this book sneak up on you. It's worth the wait.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2009

    I enjoyed Lake Overturn

    Compelling characters in small town Eula, Idaho weave an intriguing story of a cross-section of everyday America. There's something for everyone in this book. Family ties and friendships hold the residents together or tear them apart. The central character, Enrique, is so lovable despite being one of the least accepted "types" in Eula. He struggles, makes mistakes, perserveres and finally ----- well, I won't spoil the end. Pick it up--Lake Overturn is a charmer.

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  • Posted June 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Leading Lives of Quiet Desperation in Small Town America - - You Know These People

    Vestal McIntyre's first novel is a gentle but achingly real look at a diverse group of people in a small Idaho town - could be any small-town America. From school kids to a constantly recovering drug addict to a woman whose religion hampers more than comforts to a daughter helping her mother face death - all of his characters are just trying to find out where they fit into a challenging world. He deals with this group of misfits (really - who are the "fits"!?) with humor, compassion and realism. He handles them carefully when they are hurting, laughs with them at their foibles and casts a critical eye on their missteps, but always sees in them their best potential even if they do not.
    Set in the 1980's, the story starts and finishes at the local high school - the center of many a small town's social life. But the characters range from the junior high boys (who are anything but the "in" crowd) and their dream of creating an award winning science project, to the slightly scary bus driver trying to hold his truly crazy family together, to the Mormon woman who tries to ease her way into death by receiving multiple baptisms for persons who died before joining the church. These are intimately known characters; one marvels at how well McIntyre knows each one - their strongest moments and their lowest despair. You may not like every character, but you will understand them and recognize their wishes and hopes and fears.
    This is a beautifully written and completely readable book. McIntyre's prose is so seemingly effortless - using just a phrase that evokes the exact image or memory. His descriptions of the Idaho landscape and Eula townscape are spot on - transporting the reader to a part of the country that few have traveled to. You may not want to visit Eula after reading his book, but you will be glad that you were there in the book's pages.

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  • Posted April 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The tale feels more like a series of vignettes rather than a novel

    One night in 1986 in the Cameroon in the area adjacent to Lake Nyos, every bug, animal, and 1700 humans mysteriously died. In Eula, Idaho, two seventh grade friends Enrique a closet homo sexual and high functioning autistic Gene agree to write a paper on the unexplained phenomena for their science fair project. ----------------

    However, Gene obsesses over what happened in Africa, which leads to the end of his friendship with Enrique. At the same time, Enrique's house cleaning mother begins an affair with a married client; while Gene's pious religious mother, steadfast faithful to a husband who abandoned her ages ago feels she is cheating in her heart as she is attracted to someone besides her missing spouse. --------------------

    The tale feels more like a series of vignettes rather than a novel as LAKE OVERTURN digs deep into the lives of lonely people in Eula in 1986; not just the pair described above. The various characters seem genuine especially in their loneliness and desperate need to connect with someone else. Mindful of the Beatles' Eleanor Rigby, Vestal McIntyre provides a profound look at how far a lonely person will go for companionship.--------

    Harriet Klausner

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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