“Gone-Away Lake” by Elizabeth Enright

Recommended to me by: Marissa Lingen

The title sounded familiar and I thought I read it as a child, but the story itself didn’t ring any bells. Published in 1957, the book features two half-grown kids interacting with two elderly people living in abandoned summer homes, surrounded by lots of nature and lots of kindness.

Portia visits her cousin Julian for the summer, way out in the country. At 11 and 12 years old, they blithely leave the house every morning to visit their new friends at Gone-Away Lake and don’t return until dinner, without accounting for their time to Julian’s parents.

Portia and Julian are close friends without a trace of romance or self-consciousness. They only quarrel once, late in the book. Although the quarrel seems resolved, they each spend more time with friends of their own gender after that.

There is some emphasis on the stereotypes of girls being afraid more often and talking more, and boys liking construction and dirt more. At the same time, the stereotypes are gently questioned by the boys admitting to being afraid too, and the girls exploring right along with them.

Minnehaha and Pindar live peacefully in abandoned houses beside the marsh which used to be Lake Tarrigo, without most modern conveniences. Their day to day activities gently question our assumptions about what is necessary for happiness.

It’s a relief to read a book about emotionally healthy people enjoying their world and each other.

Available at Powell’s Books.

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