The Lake on Fire

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When Chaya’s family emigrates from Zhitomir to Wisconsin, her new life falls short of its promise. Her parents encourage her to learn English, but refuse to let her continue her studies. Certain that a better fate lies elsewhere, she plans an escape to Chicago and is surprised when her brilliant youngest brother Asher stows away with her. In the city, Chaya finds housing and work, but Asher turns to petty crime, viewing himself as a kind of Robin Hood. As the World’s Fair captures the country’s imagination, both Chaya and Asher are drawn to the burgeoning movement of workers’ rights, discovering that even in their own struggles they are, in many ways, the fortunate ones. But when Chaya marries Gregory, a wealthy man whose brother stands for everything she and Asher despise, the true sacrifices she’s made for her new life become wrenchingly clear.

Rosellen Brown is unsparing in her description of Chaya’s life in Wisconsin, where she, as the only English learner, is the sole connection to a world beyond her family’s remote enclave. In Chicago, too, she serves as a kind of bridge between worlds, a position that strengthens uneasily once she marries Gregory. Chaya is needed everywhere but truly belongs nowhere, except, she believes, with Asher. Brown is adept at showing how differently Chaya and Asher come to see their relationship, with Chaya holding on for dear life even as he becomes the most ungraspable thing of all. The Lake on Fire is a poetic and moving meditation on the choices we make to achieve the lives we imagine.

Reviewed By:

Author Rosellen Brown
Star Count 4/5
Format Trade
Page Count 320 pages
Publisher Sarabande Books
Publish Date 2018-10-16
ISBN 9781946448231 Buy this Book
Issue Mar-19
Category Historical Fiction


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