Book Review: One Night at the Lake by Bethany Chase

One Night at the Lake – Bethany Chase (Ballantine Books, 2019)

I received an Advance Readers Copy of this book. It has a release date of June 18, 2019. All opinions are my own.

This book is total fluff but it was easy-to-read fluff and didn’t take very much time to finish.

One Night at the Lake is told in alternating voices, chapter by chapter. First Leah, seven years ago, during a week at a cottage on Seneca Lake. Then June, her best friend, seven years later, also during a week at the same cottage. Seven years later, June is engaged to Ollie, the man Leah loved (the cottage belongs to his family), and Leah is out of the picture. But what really happened that night on the lake?

The book has an obvious flaw – so obvious that it’s in the title of the book – which is that a large portion of the plot revolves around the trope of “that night”. An event that the book keeps circling around but won’t tell you. It helps a little bit that June, narrating in the present day, doesn’t know the entire story but she still knows a lot more than she lets on as a first person narrator and there’s no real reason to keep the reader in the dark for so long. It’s obvious early on that Leah died at the lake and I guess that we’re just supposed to accept that June doesn’t want to look too closely at the events of that week.

That said, I did find myself continuing to read in order to get to the big reveal, where Ollie finally admits how or why Leah died. And in the end, it’s kind of disappointing. A lot of the book reads like how a teenager might imagine best friends or a romantic relationship. It’s all very intense and passionate and sure those relationships exist and are great but they don’t usually go on like that for years and years. Not that the passion fades but the intensity of friendship is different at age 25 than it is at age 12. And it’s definitely different again in your 30s.

Ollie, the man at the centre of the novel, who both Leah and June are in love with, is also kind of blah. He’s supposed to be this amazing guy but he seemed pretty normal to me. Even in the physical descriptions of him I had trouble picturing him as particularly handsome even though I kept getting told he was. Part of the big reveal (I guess this is a spoiler) is that he isn’t perfect and he hurt someone’s feelings. Honestly, that’s it. A grown woman is horrified to learn that the man she loves is “not this pure good person”. (That’s a direct quote.) To be clear, these characters are both supposed to be adults in their 30s who, presumably, have been interacting with other human beings all their lives.

That said, the book is an easy read. It does well at describing the fun of having a week’s vacation lakeside – boats and beers and fireworks and a certain kind of nostalgia that goes along with all that. The kind of book you bring up to your week at the lake and read on the dock and if it falls into the water, it’s still fine.

7 thoughts on “Book Review: One Night at the Lake by Bethany Chase”

    1. I’m with Callum: that is hilarious! One of the best fictional friendships out there is between Anne Shirley and Diana Barry. Their enduring girlhood love survives, but everything else about the relationship changes the minute Anne goes off to college, as it will, and the author should at least try to respect that adults don’t experience platonic love the same way as children or teens.

    2. Anne and Diana are a great example because their friendship does mature, just as they both do. They grow up and live separate lives, even as they continue to be best friends. I guess in this book since one of the characters dies the friendship is kind of stuck in one stage but the other character has no self-awareness (or other friends, it seems) or personal growth past the age of 23.

  1. BAHAHA best last line ever

    I HATE books that do this-the narrator who holds back information just to keep the suspense up. What a lazy way of writing, and it’s so prevalent right now (FictionFan and I complain about this together regularly! lol)

    1. It’s such a lazy way of creating suspense. I have to admit I fall for it sometimes, even when it drives me crazy. I even thought of FictionFan as I was reading this book because I know she hates it so much, hahaha!

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