Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The mystique of Mistik

The novel Mistik Lake by Martha Brooks was blessedly short -- clocking in at a little over four hours. A great deal has been crammed into those four hours: teenage sex, teenage pregnancy, lesbianism, mental illness, infidelity, illegitimacy, motherlessness, and a spectacular car crash into the eponymous frozen lake. I did get the feeling that there was entirely too much Scandinavian (mainly Icelandic ... is Iceland part of Scandinavia?) inbreeding in this tiny Manitoban town.

Odella is the oldest of three sisters raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her mother, Sally -- sole survivor of that car crash when she was a teenager -- was raised in the small town of Mistik Lake, but her family moved to Winnipeg shortly after the accident. Odella's mother continued to spend summers at Mistik Lake at her great aunt Gloria's (the aforementioned lesbian -- closeted to her family) cottage. Sally was considered to be a wild girl by all who lived there, but she married when she was just 20 and moved permanently to Winnipeg with her architect husband, and had those three daughters. When Odella is 15, Sally leaves her family for an Icelandic documentary filmmaker, and, eventually returns with him to Iceland. The summer that Odella finishes high school, she finds herself a job and a cute boyfriend in Mistik Lake --decisions that force many, many family secrets to the surface.

This book is barely 200 pages long. I found most of the secrets to be telegraphed long before they were revealed, and as they began to pile up, it began to feel utterly ridiculous. Kind of shockingly so, as Brooks is a terrific writer who wrote the most enjoyable True Confessions of a Heartless Girl a few years ago. I thought the narrator, Katie MacNichol, attempted to hold all the melodrama at bay -- as she chose to read with minimal drama and variety. There were just slight voicing differences for some characters, but she rarely made significant changes in pace and emotion.

Maybe she thought it needed to be toned down, but ultimately it made for a pretty dull listen. Of course, if she had made the choice to pull out all the stops, it would have been eye-rollingly bad. I find it interesting that I'm often complaining (well, not complaining) that long, involved narratives don't make for the best audiobooks. Here I am complaining about the exact opposite of that kind of book. Sometimes, there's just no pleasing me!

No comments: