Ladies of the Lake

The course of any life can change in what seems like a blink of an eye and so it was for Adelaide Rose MacNeil who lived with her family on Prince Edward Island in Canada. In the autumn of 1901, her parents took a ferry to Halifax for a day of shopping with plans to return home by nightfall. But wind, rain, and darkness came without their return. Storms blew up often over these waters, but this storm resulted in her parents drowning and at eleven years old, Adelaide’s life was changed forever.

So begins Cathy Gohlke’s latest novel, Ladies of the Lake, as she invites us into the difficult journey Adelaide was about to begin. The loss of her parents was devastating but when her half-brother, Lemuel, determines that she needs to leave Prince Edward Island and the life she has known including her closest friend to go to a girl’s boarding school in Connecticut, Adelaide’s grief engulfs her.

Lemuel wanted this transition to happen immediately without recognizing the struggle Adelaide faced in doing so. She had always been in a two-room school with all the grades in the same rooms and now she was to board a ship and a train to go to Lakeside Ladies Academy. She was unable to even take some of her favorite things on the trip and would be living with strangers as an orphan.

Arrival at Lakeside introduces her to a girl named, Dot, who offers friendship and a welcoming smile. Little can prepare Adelaide for some of the challenges other girls at the academy would present but Dot would be steadfast, and two other girls, Ruth and Susannah would soon become allied to withstand the bullying they faced from some of the older girls and the strict rules of the staff. Their bond of friendship grows and soon they find a gazebo on the academy property to be the best of meeting places. With a growing bond of “one for all and all for one” they choose a name for themselves of “Ladies of the Lake” with promises made to always be there for one another.

The author introduces you to the way life at the academy unfolds with other characters who come into Adelaide’s life. The longing for her parents does not go away but the bond of friendship becomes a sisterhood of the dearest kind, but a group of twelve-year-old girls know little about the ways that bond can be stretched and potentially broken. They know little of what true friendship requires.

“Friendships require honesty, trust, nurturing, investment of time and means, and sometimes sacrifice.”  

Cathy Gohlke

Adelaide, Dot, Ruth, and Susannah discover that even the closest of friendships are tested. Ladies of the Lake will give you a front row seat to the testing this foursome faces over these pre-teen years into their mid-fifties with backdrops of the impact of WW I and the Great Depression.

“Jealousy, misunderstandings, competition, bullying, secrets, lies, shame, arguments – any number of things can fray relationships or completely tear them apart.”  

Cathy Gohlke

The biggest breach for these girls will come over a young man from a boy’s academy nearby whose family also lives in the area. Despite their efforts to deal with this challenge, the war will separate them unexpectedly while the boys and their families are shunned by the community as a result of their German heritage and the request of Adelaide’s brother to come to Halifax to help his wife whose second pregnancy has proved difficult. With no time to communicate and say goodbye hearts of everyone are torn and distance and lack of communication will lead to more misunderstandings.

The ”Ladies of the Lake” and their friendship and affection for the two boys, Jonas and Stephen become increasingly more complex and when the Halifax Explosion of 1917 happens Adelaide’s life takes a tragic turn. Her half-brother, his wife, and young son are all destroyed in an instant when the fires tear through Halifax like an atomic bomb. Only Adelaide and the new baby girl survive but both are badly burned and injured.

These events result in Adelaide isolating herself from the sisterhood she had been a part of and had already been challenged. 

“Despite their good intentions to remain close, each young woman plays a part in the failure of their friendship pact, and each middle-aged woman plays a needed part in seeking forgiveness, reconciliation, and in taking steps to tangibly demonstrate a path forward that they might travel together.”

Cathy Gohlke

This novel is written masterfully and most any woman will identify with some portion of the story of friendships that can provide so much joy and so much pain. You will want to add this title to your reading list.

15 thoughts on “Ladies of the Lake

  1. From what you wrote here, its definitely one to read. Hope I can find it online.
    Thank you from your SSPS Team for sharing your links with us at #269 SSPS Linky.

    1. You should be able to find it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. I have seen it both places. I think you’re going to enjoy it.

    1. It was captivating to me and the author kept me guessing on how it would evolve and end – something I love in a novel💕

    1. It’s a very well told story with so much more than I chose to share. I didn’t know how the story would end until the last few chapters-what I consider great writing in a novel💕

Leave a Reply