Mistik Lake by Martha Brooks
Summary (from School Library Journal): In a prologue, readers learn that in 1981, three teenagers died while joyriding on frozen Mistik Lake in Manitoba. Sally was the sole survivor. The story then alternates between Odella, Sally's oldest daughter, beginning when she is nine; Sally's Aunt Gloria, Odella's beloved great-aunt; and, later, Odella's boyfriend, Jimmy. Summers are spent at Mistik Lake, where Gloria has a cottage that she never uses. There, Odella, a perceptive girl, becomes attuned to her mother's sadness and alcoholism. Sally leaves her husband and daughters for an Icelandic filmmaker when Odella is 15, and the devastated family struggles to function without her. However, they continue to vacation at the lake, where Odella meets Jimmy, leading to a romance that helps sustain her in the aftermath of her mother's sudden death. Much of the mood is pensive as characters suffer but eventually break through. Gloria, whose homosexuality has been kept a secret, eventually brings her partner to meet Sally's girls; and Odella starts to forgive her mother and begin an adult life. Jumps back and forth in time and perspective make reading somewhat bewildering at times, but they do allow more intimate characterization. Smooth writing contributes much to a story that will enable readers to care about Odella's coming of age.
Favourite part: Odella's romance with Jimmy - he's a really lovely boy.
Pet peeve: The word nipple was used far too often! It just kept (sorry) popping up and I found it irksome for some reason.
I did like the way the family relationships were portrayed - the father and the sisters all really loved each other, but they weren't perfect. They got annoyed with each other, acted out, suffered together and separately, but remained a solid family, even when things got really hard.
The town of Mistik Lake and its inhabitants play a big role. Many of its residents are of Icelandic descent and that adds even more to the small-town feeling of community. In the afterword, Brooks describes her family's settlement in Manitoba from Iceland - I wasn't aware there had been such a large settlement of them in that part of Canada, so that was interesting to read about. As the scene of her accident, Odella's mother feels sad about the town, but its people still see her and her daughters as their own.
Overall, a well-written coming-of-age story that explores the connections between the past and the present and between family members, especially sisters.