The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman



The lake of dead languages The Lake of Dead LanguagesCarol Goodman; Ballantine Books 2002WorldCat

Jane Hudson has returned to the Heart Lake girls school to teach Latin. She had been a high school student there herself 20 years earlier. Her senior year was tragic, with three teens dying from suicide. Two of them had been her roommates.

She has left her husband, taken her daughter, and returned to the area where she grew up. She had won a Latin scholarship to the nearby exclusive girl’s school. The two now live in the small cottage on the shores of Heart Lake. Jane has a small class. Three of the girls have especially gained her affection. The school is not as prestigious as it once was, and now more “troubled” girls attended. These three had had some difficulties in their past, including one who had slit her wrists over a boy.

The three remind Jane of her two friends. Lucy, her best friend who also won the scholarship, and Diedre. They celebrate the old superstitious rituals girls followed for years. They have a close bond. They are very interested in their Latin studies. But after pages from Jane’s missing high school journal appear within her own school paperwork, she wonders if the likeness goes deeper than she suspects. Her memories of twenty years earlier keep interfering. Then one of the girls attempts suicide. Is the curse of Heart Lake returning? It is written in first person narrative by Jane from her perspective. Jane starts learning more of the secrets from twenty years earlier. She becomes afraid the past will repeat itself, this time claiming three girls, and possibly herself as well.

My daughter borrowed this book and its title caught my eye. Once it was in her bedroom I forgot about it until she brought it out last week. Once again I commented on the title. She warned me it was strange, but thought I might like it. It started slowly. Yet the way Goodman writes in all the hints from the past with the strange happenings of the present is compelling.

The first third of the book takes place in the present. The second third returns twenty years earlier when the three girls Jane, Lucy, and Diedre roomed together. The final third returns to the present. By the last third I had a good idea of most of the secrets, and was telling my daughter how I thought the different threads of the book would work out. I was correct. Yet that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the book. Goodman kept me intrigued, needing to keep reading for the parts I hadn’t figured out, confirming the parts I had, and revealing a few more secrets.

This is a dark, eerie tale. The secrets from the past are constantly hinted at, but are explained very slowly. Goodman builds up the story with chilling emotions. It is a psychological thriller. Be prepared, and enjoy being unnerved.

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