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5 out of 5 stars

Great literature is a study of the human condition, and in that vein, Blake R. Wolfe’s debut novel Lake Arcadia could be considered an example of great literature. If none of the characters’ story arcs explored in these eleven chapters pull your heartstrings, you might be a robot.

It’s not uncommon these days to see novels switch between points of view, even showing a story through the eyes of as many as a handful of characters. But Wolfe seems to have created a unique viewpoint here, revealing the disturbing mystery of the small, picturesque town of Lake Arcadia through the eyes of a distinct character in each chapter. After a horrible flood, things seem weird in Lake Arcadia. Both fish and people disappear in droves. Some report seeing a strange, unbelievable creature.

My favorite thing about this book was this unique structure. I’ve read nothing like it, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of seeing the mystery of Lake Arcadia unfold through the eyes of various citizens and visitors. Getting an inside glimpse of so many lives was a great new experience. It was almost like a collection of short stories all grouped together. Each one was heart-wrenching in its own way. Empathetic individuals will experience a great deal of emotions with this one, so be warned. If you’re looking for a good cry or cringe, you can find it within these pages. Each chapter, I imagined things couldn’t get worse, and Wolfe rose to the challenge with each new character.

One of the few complaints I had was I felt that it could have ended one chapter earlier than it did. The end of the next-to-last chapter even felt like an ending. But that often happens in books and other media. One thinks they’ve seen a finale to see they have two more episodes to go. The last chapter didn’t feel like it fit as well as the others, and living in New Orleans – and married to a native New Orleanian – it felt a little inauthentic. But it only mildly lessened my enjoyment of the overall experience.

This was an excellent debut novel, and I look forward to reading more by Wolfe in the future.

Lake Arcadia is a book that’s hard to classify. In my mind, it’s a little bit fantasy, but the author doesn’t bill it. It also has elements of horror, but it’s didn’t strike me as incredibly scary – which is good because I can’t do hardcore horror. It was certainly eerie in parts, and if you like horror, I think you’ll find things you enjoy in the pages. I guess it could just be fiction or literary fiction. It is such a fantastic study of the human condition, I almost feel like anything fantastical was almost lagniappe. Whatever you like to read, I would absolutely recommend this book. I’m confident you’ll find something to enjoy within the pages.

I stumbled upon Wolfe on Twitter, and won a copy of this book in a giveaway. And boy am I glad I did.

Content Warnings: Gore, Violence, Child Endangerment, Domestic Violence, Murder, Homosexual Repression, Drowning