Review: Alligator Lake by Lynne Bryant

Alligator Lake coming April 2012
Alligator Lake by Lynne Bryant
Release Date:  April 3, 2012
Publisher:  NAL Trade
Page Count:  416 pages
Source:  book provided by the publisher

A summer wedding calls Avery Pritchett home. Back to the fertile Mississippi Delta she left ten years ago. Back to the family that sent her away…

As a pregnant teenager, Avery Pritchett found refuge in Colorado, but now, ten years later, her brother’s wedding — and some burning questions — bring her back home to her small Southern town.
But will introducing her mixed-race daughter to her eccentric grandmother bring solace or sorrow?
Will confronting her class-conscious mother allow for new beginnings or confirm old resentments? And how can she ask for forgiveness of her lover from her youth who has been denied his child all these years?

As the summer progresses, Avery’s return provokes shocking discoveries — of choices made, and secrets kept, and of deceptions that lie closer than she suspects.

Review:  Lynne Bryant does an incredible job bringing to life the past and present for three generations of women, all so very different, yet so similar.  Her ability to project the mother/daughter relationships within these women is mesmerizing and touches the reader’s heart immediately.

Alligator Lake is the story of Avery, her Mother Marion and her Grandmother Will.  Alternating each woman’s past and present, the story develops in a unique and excellent way that allows the reader to get to know each character and discover why they are the way they are.

Avery moved away from her home in Mississippi at the tender age of eighteen – pregnant and alone.  Moving to Colorado to live with her loving and patient Aunt Lizzy, Avery spends the next ten years creating a life, secluded from her family back home, with her young daughter, Celi.  That time of seclusion comes to an end with one phone call from her brother, requesting Avery and her daughter to come back home and take part in his wedding.  It is with great trepidation that Avery and Celi travel back home without a clue as to what kind reception they will receive.

Grandmother Will is a wonderful, tender and non-judgmental person.  She has remained in contact with Avery and welcomes her and her great-granddaughter with wide open arms.  It is through telling Avery stories of her past that new discoveries and secrets come to light.  Will has always been an advocate for the black people and has had a great hatred for the segregation and discrimination they have suffered.  She even taught many of the black workers how to read.

Marion, however, detested her mother’s love and care for the blacks and grew up feeling embarrassed by her mother.  Marion wanted nothing more than to fit in with the high society white people.  This, in turn, made Marion push her daughter Avery into white society and try to turn her into a proper young lady.  Little did anyone know that Avery was seeing Aaron, her grandmother Will’s best friend’s grandson.  It is with him she becomes pregnant.  The horror?  Aaron is not white; therefor Avery will be giving birth to a mixed race child, which is a disgrace where they live.  So instead of living with her Mother’s anger and insistence of aborting the child, Avery leaves.

It is when Celi goes to the doctor very sick, that the discovery is made that she has Sickle-Cell disease – something that effects a child when both the mother and father carry this trait – a trait within the black race. How did Avery come to carry this trait and what secrets are buried in her family’s past?  She hopes to uncover these answers while back for her brother’s wedding.

Alligator Lake is a wonderful and heart touching story that will engulf the reader from the beginning to the end.  I truly loved Ms. Bryant’s ability to segue seamlessly into each woman’s past and present in alternating chapters.   I also loved the way the author enables each character to grow as the story progresses.  I have to be honest in my surprise at how the black people were treated and how the white people looked down upon them even in the year 1991 and 2001.  I had no idea that such racism was so strong.  During the early years, yes, however not in the more current years.  This greatly disturbed me.  Also, Marion’s stark dislike, disdain and racism angered me.

As the story goes on, however, answers are discovered and the ability of one little girl to make burned bridges whole again is inspiring.  Alligator Lake is a story of acceptance, love and working through difficulties.  It is a story of new beginnings.  This is the first book that I have read by Lynne Bryant and I truly cannot wait to read other works by her.  Her writing style reminded me a bit of Lisa Wingate.  Ms. Bryant also has a wondrous way of bringing the surroundings to life – allowing the reader to visualize and feel as though they are right there with the characters.  Alligator Lake is a story that will drag you in emotionally and will not release you until the final page is read.  For anyone looking for a story of family dynamics, love, twists, inspiration and hope, this is the perfect book!

Favorite Quote:  I took my dress off the hook.  I still thought it looked like an upside-down snow cone before the syrup, but it was the best Miss Esther could do considering what she had to work with – me.  I stuffed the dress into its bag and threw my tote over my shoulder.  It was filled with the push-up bra Mother had made me buy, the silly shoes, panty hose, and of course the white gloves.

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