Ladies of the Lake

Written by Cathy Gohlke
Review by Susan McDuffie

In 1903, orphaned Adelaide Rose MacNeill leaves Prince Edward Island at the command of her guardian and travels to Connecticut to begin a new life as a student at the Lakeside Ladies Academy. There Adelaide meets three true friends—Dot, Rose, and Susannah—and, as their school days draw to a close, the four resolve to remain the “Ladies of the Lake,” friends forever. Adelaide looks forward to teaching, and to a writing career, inspired by her mentor, Lucy Maud Montgomery. She also looks forward to love.

By 1935, the friends have scattered. Adelaide is believed dead, a victim of the horrific 1917 Halifax explosion. Dot, headmistress at the Lakeside Academy, is haunted by a shameful secret she fears could destroy her marriage. Rose practices social work in Canada, while Susannah juggles motherhood and the social demands of life in the Deep South. Dot finds that one of her Canadian students, Bernadette, unaccountably reminds her of Adelaide, and grows suspicious when Bernadette’s mother refuses to attend the graduation of her valedictorian daughter. The two timelines converge. Will the “Ladies of the Lake” reunite and will their friendships endure?

I immersed myself in this novel, reading it in one day. The depth of the friendships between the four women, the misunderstandings that arise—and the damage and guilt such obstacles can cause—will ring true to anyone who has been fortunate enough to share such friendships. Christian themes of forgiveness and redemption are woven throughout the book, but the depth of the emotional struggle will resonate with many readers, no matter their religion. Lovers of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s work will also find much to appreciate and enjoy in this novel.