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A Novel

Written by Kristin HannahAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Kristin Hannah

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On Sale: December 18, 2007
Pages: 448 | ISBN: 978-0-307-41631-5
Published by : Ballantine Books Ballantine Group
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Kristin Hannah makes her hardcover debut with this poignant, tender, and true story of love, loss, passion, and the fragile threads that bind families together.

Annie Colwater's only child has just left home for school abroad. On that same day, her husband of twenty years confesses that he's in love with a younger woman. Alone in the house that is no longer a home, Annie comes to the painful realization that for years she has been slowly disappearing. Lonely and afraid, she retreats to Mystic, the small Washington town where she grew up, hoping that there she can reclaim the woman she once was--the woman she is now desperate to become again.

In Mystic, she is reunited with her first love, Nick Delacroix, a recent widower unable to cope with his grieving, too-silent six-year-old daughter, Izzie. Together, the three of them begin to heal, and, at last, Annie learns that she can love without losing herself. But just when she has found a second chance at happiness, her life is turned upside down again, and Annie must make a choice no woman should have to make. . . .

On Mystic Lake is the story of one seemingly ordinary woman, but the novel speaks to all of us, to anyone who has ever had to choose between what is . . . and what could be.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

From Part One

The true voyage of self-discovery
lies not in seeking new landscapes
but in having new eyes.
--Marcel Proust

Chapter One



Rain fell like tiny silver teardrops from the tired sky. Somewhere behind a bank of clouds lay the sun, too weak to cast a shadow on the ground below.
        
It was March, the doldrums of the year, still and quiet and gray, but the wind had already begun to warm, bringing with it the promise of spring. Trees that only last week had been naked and brittle seemed to have grown six inches over the span of a single, moonless night, and sometimes, if the sunlight hit a limb just so, you could see the red bud of new life stirring at the tips of the crackly brown bark. Any day, the hills behind Malibu would blossom, and for a few short weeks this would be the prettiest place on Earth.
        
Like the plants and animals, the children of Southern California sensed the coming of the sun. They had begun to dream of ice cream and popsicles and last year's cutoffs. Even determined city dwellers, who lived in glass and concrete high-rises in places with pretentious names like Century City, found themselves veering into the nursery aisles of their local supermarkets. Small, potted geraniums began appearing in the metal shopping carts, alongside the sun-dried tomatoes and the bottles of Evian water.
        
For nineteen years, Annie Colwater had awaited spring with the breathless anticipation of a young girl at her first dance. She ordered bulbs from distant lands and shopped for hand-painted ceramic pots to hold her favorite annuals.
        
But now, all she felt was dread, and a vague, formless panic. After today, nothing in her well-ordered life would remain the same, and she was not a woman who liked the sharp, jagged edges of change. She preferred things to run smoothly, down the middle of the road. That was where she felt safest--in the center of the ordinary, with her family gathered close around her.
        
Wife.
        
Mother.
        
These were the roles that defined her, that gave her life meaning. It was what she'd always been, and now, as she warily approached her fortieth birthday, it was all she could remember ever wanting to be. She had gotten married right after college and been pregnant within that same year. Her husband and daughter were her anchors; without Blake and Natalie, she had often thought that she might float out to sea, a ship without captain or destination.
        
But what did a mother do when her only child left home?
        
She shifted uneasily in the front seat of the Cadillac. The clothes she'd chosen with such care this morning, navy wool pants and a pale rose silk blouse, felt wrong. Usually she could take refuge in fashionable camouflage, by pretending to be a woman she wasn't. Designer clothes and carefully applied makeup could make her look like the high-powered corporate wife she was supposed to be. But not today. Today, the waist-length brown hair she'd drawn back from her face in a chignon--the way her husband liked it, the way she always wore it--was giving her a headache.
        
She drummed her manicured fingernails on the armrest and glanced at Blake, who was settled comfortably in the driver's seat. He looked completely relaxed, as if this were a normal afternoon instead of the day their seventeen-year-old daughter was leaving for London.
        
It was childish to be so scared, she knew that, but knowing didn't ease the pain. When Natalie had first told them that she wanted to graduate early and spend her last quarter in London, Annie had been proud of her daughter's independence. It was the sort of thing that seniors at the expensive prep school often did, and precisely the sophisticated sort of adventure Annie had wanted for her daughter.
        
Annie herself would never have had the courage for so bold a move--not at seventeen, not even now at thirty-nine. Travel had always intimidated her. Although she loved seeing new places and meeting new people, she always felt an underlying discomfort when she left home.
        
She knew this weakness was a remnant of her youth, a normal by-product of the tragedy that had tainted her childhood, but understanding her fear didn't alleviate it. On every family vacation, Annie had suffered from nightmares--dark, twisted visions in which she was alone in a foreign land without money or direction. Lost, she wandered through unfamiliar streets, searching for the family that was her safety net, until, finally, sobbing in her sleep, she awoke. Then, she would curl into her husband's sleeping body and, at last, relax.
        
She had been proud of her daughter's independence and courage in choosing to go all the way to England by herself, but she hadn't realized how hard it would be to watch Natalie leave. They'd been like best friends, she and her daughter, ever since Natalie had emerged from the angry, sullen rubble of the early teen years. They'd had hard times, sure, and fights and hurt feelings, and they'd each said things that shouldn't have been said, but all that had only made their bond stronger. They were a unit, the "girls" in a household where the only man worked eighty hours a week and sometimes went whole days without remembering to smile.
        
She stared out the car window. The concrete-encrusted canyons of downtown Los Angeles were a blur of high-rise buildings, graffiti, and neon lights that left streaking reflections in the misty rain. They were getting closer and closer to the airport.
        
She reached for her husband, touched the pale blue cashmere of his sleeve. "Let's fly to London with Nana and get her settled with her host family. I know--"
        
"Mom," Natalie said sharply from the backseat. "Get real. It would be, like, so humiliating for you to show up."
        
Annie drew her hand back and plucked a tiny lint ball from her expensive wool pants. "It was just an idea," she said softly. "Your dad has been trying to get me to England for ages. I thought . . . maybe we could go now."
        
Blake gave her a quick look, one she couldn't quite read. "I haven't mentioned England in years." Then he muttered something about the traffic and slammed his hand on the horn.
Kristin Hannah|Author Q&A

About Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah - On Mystic Lake

Photo © charlesbush.com

Kristin Hannah is the bestselling author of On Mystic Lake, Angel Falls, Home Again, Summer Island, Distant Shores, Between Sisters, and The Things We Do for Love. She lives with her husband and son in the Pacific Northwest.

Author Q&A

A Conversation with Kristin Hannah
Jennifer Morgan Gray is a writer and editor who lives in New York City.

Jennifer Morgan Gray: Did you begin On Mystic Lake with a particular image or idea—the title, perhaps—in mind? Was there a particular character that propelled the story forward?

Kristin Hannah: Often times the beginning of a book is an amorphous and easily forgotten thing, but in this case, I can remember distinctly how it all began. I saw a little girl who thought she was disappearing. Although Mystic did not ultimately turn out to be her story, I still feel that she’s the heart of everything; the catalyst that forces the other characters to change and grow. For me, the challenge was putting the little girl in context, wrapping a story around her, finding out why she thought she was vanishing slowly.

JMG: The passages from Izzy’s perspective are so vivid. How were you able to get inside the mind of this young, mixed-up girl? Was it difficult for you to achieve and sustain that distinct voice throughout the novel?

KH: Writing in a child’s voice is a special challenge. You begin with somewhat rigid constraints and disciples about acceptable word choices and syntax and descriptive capabilities. Ultimately, everything must be accurate for the child’s age and life experience. Then you have to find a way to fly within that framework, to be imaginative and almost other-worldly, to see everything and everyone through new and innocent eyes. I loved becoming a child again, and hopefully that passion found its way into Izzy’s voice.

JMG: Annie’s a reflection of many women in that she buries her own creative impulses—and her basic emotional needs—for the sake of her family. Was she based on anyone you knew? When writing this book, did you hope that a few people in the same boat as she, might pick up a pen, a paintbrush, or just make some time for themselves? Is writing that creative outlet for you, especially since you began writing after you became a stay-at-home mom?

KH: Annie could be based on so many of the women in my life—friends, neighbors, relatives. As I get older, I see so many Annies around me. Women who chose to get married and have children and loved every minute of it, but then somewhere along the way realized that they’d lost some essential part of themselves. Those of us who are caretakers—and I definitely put myself in this category— often put everyone else’s needs first. While this is understandable and even admirable, it can also be a blueprint for disaster. We need to take care of ourselves and our marriages, too. I think that’s the lesson Annie needed to learn. I hope that Mystic resonates with women who know how easy it is to lose sight of one’s own reflection. And yes,
writing is the outlet for my innermost self. When I sit down at my computer, I’m the girl I remember and the woman I want to be. I can close the door on my “real” life
and become, for a few precious moments, just me.

JMG: The shifting conception of what a family is plays a large part in the novel. Why does Annie have such a hard time tearing herself away from a traditional family framework? What does her “perfect life” initially represent to her? As a writer, what draws you to tell these stories of motherhood and family?

KH: Annie grew up motherless. That’s really the cornerstone of her personality. As a child, she was left to imagine her mother and, therefore, to guide herself into womanhood. Her father, although he loved her, was a man trapped by his own upbringing. He taught her what he knew of a woman’s place in the world. Because of that, Annie grew up believing that she could succeed in life only by being the perfect wife and mother. No one ever taught her that she should strive also for her best self, that she deserved a happiness of her own. Thus, when her marriage shatters and her child leaves home, she is utterly lost. It is then, when she is alone and confused and heartbroken, that she must finally come of age and choose the woman she will become. Now, Why do I write so often about motherhood? you ask. The easy answer is that it’s the cornerstone of my life. Writing is what I do; a mother is what I am. I write about women who are various incarnations and versions of me.
Annie, perhaps, is the me who never had the courage to begin writing that first novel all those years ago . . . or the me who grew up without a mother who believed I could achieve anything.

JMG: Annie characterizes herself as a “good little girl who never cried.” As a child and later as an adult, why does she muffle her sadness and grief? What other characters also bury their emotions, to detrimental effect?

KH:Annie has spent her whole life trying to be perfect for those whom she loved. First it was as a daughter. Her grieving father couldn’t stand her tears, so she learned to swallow them and keep smiling. Later, she tried to be a flawless wife and mother. An impossible quest as we all know, one that leads all too often to madness, medication, or denial. Annie has chosen denial as her coping mechanism. Over the years, she’s suppressed all her emotions to a greater or lesser extent—grief, loss, disappointment. She’s afraid that the expression of these dark emotions would lead to ruin, but in that suppression, she’s rendered herself mute. Each of the characters in the novel is grappling with the power and pain of big emotions and most are avoiding them in one way or another. Nick is numbing his grief with alcohol and swimming in his own guilt; Blake is using anonymous sex to bolster his flailing ego.

JMG: I love the way you parallel Izzy’s belief that she’s disappearing with Annie’s own realization that her personality and life have vanished. How does Izzy’s “disappearance” enable her to grapple with grief and connect with her mother? What compels Annie to figuratively “disappear”? How do both characters become fully formed again?

KH:The disappearance of some aspect of oneself is really the central theme of the novel. For Izzy, obviously, this loss of herself lies in the inability to understand her place in a new world, a world in which she is now a motherless child. She knows that in losing her mother, she has lost some essential piece of herself. The physical manifestation of this emotion is the belief that she’s disappearing. In her mind, she imagines that if she vanishes completely, shewill have access to the heaven or spirit world that her mother now inhabits. It is symbolic that she thinks she has
lost her hand first; for, when she finds a way to reach out to Annie and Nick for love, she will see her hand return. For Annie, the slow vanishing is more metaphorical.
She is grieving for the loss of her own dreams, for the end of her life as she always imagined it would be. I think this kind of quiet disappearing is common for women of a certain age who have given up too much of themselves in their quest to take care of others. Throughout the novel, Annie’s quest is to look past her own youthful expectations of what her life was supposed to be and to find the truth of her self. She must finally—as we all must—step up onto the stage of her life and be the heroine. Each of these characters will ultimately become whole again by accepting
life as it truly is and daring to love in spite of all the odds.

JMG: Both Blake and Nick turn to alcohol to numb themselves. Why did you choose to give them a similar outlet for their pain and frustration? Do you think that Blake’s issues with alcohol, if unchecked, could grow to the extent of Nick’s problem? Do they share other similarities?

KH: Nick and Blake both turn to the numbing comfort of alcohol because they share an essential weakness: Both want to run away from their problems. It is often true that people who have trouble with intimacy will look to outside sources for comfort. What separates these men and offers Nick hope for a better future is that he learns to change. He admits his problem and searches for an honest solution, even if it isn’t the easy one. Blake, on the other hand, sees his failings and elects to stay on the same self-destructive, alienated path. And yes, he is at great risk of becoming an
alcoholic. I always saw Blake as a truly tragic character. Because of his inability to love, he would wake up one day and realize that he is utterly alone.

JMG: You studied law before turning to writing—which makes the character of attorney Blake even more interesting. Did your experiences in the field inform your depiction of him? How did you develop him so he was a fleshed-out, multidimensional character, instead of just the cheating-husband caricature?

KH: It was critical to me that Blake be more than the clichéd stereotype of the cheating husband. One of the ways I humanized him was via his career. A career that I know quite well. He is a powerful, respected attorney—an isolated man in a field where emotions are marginalized and success is all that matters in the end. His focus on his career allowed him to become increasingly selfish and separate from his stay-at-home wife. But the fault is not his alone, and this, too, humanizes him. The way I saw it, there had perhaps been a time, years ago, when Annie could have demanded more of him, of their marriage, but she let that moment pass in silence. Her silent acceptance was every bit as ruinous to their marriage as his selfishness.
Together they created a dynamic that couldn’t succeed because it contained no honest intimacy or true parity. They’re both at fault, and that’s about as human as it
gets.

JMG: The actual places in the novel are every bit as colorful as the characters. How did you evoke this feeling, especially in comparing Southern California with Mystic,
Washington? What appeals to you about each place, both personally and in your writing?

KH:The easy answer is that I lived in Southern California during my early childhood and in Washington for all the years since. These are two places that I know well, and, obviously, the contrast between the brown heat of Los Angeles and the majestic quiet of Mystic Lake was a perfect representation of the two choices in Annie’s life. The really important thing, I think, is my deep connection to Washington
State. My stories lately seem rooted in this damp soil; I love giving readers my Northwest. The Olympic Rainforest, where Mystic is set, is particularly special to
me. In that damp and mythical place are some of my most
treasured memories of my mother.

JMG:Annie doesn’t think she’s a good role model for Natalie. How is she right, and how is she wrong? How do you imagine the woman that Natalie will grow up to be?

KH:Annie believes that she has failed to show her daughter courage and commitment and individuality. In looking back on her life and marriage, Annie realizes how much of herself she let go without a fight, what a doormat she had
become, and it shames her that she showed her daughter such weakness. But what mother doesn’t worry that she hasn’t done a good enough job, that she has somehow failed her children? What matters in the end, and what Annie comes to understand, is that she taught her daughter that love is worth fighting for, worth sacrificing for, worth risking everything for.

JMG: The book ends with Annie throwing caution to the wind and driving to Mystic to reunite with Nick. How does this show Annie’s evolution toward embracing herself
and her own needs? Did you ever consider actually writing a scene showing their reunion and ending the novel that way, with a happy ending? Or how is this that happy ending?

KH:Actually, I didn’t see the ending as “throwing caution to the wind and driving to Mystic to reunite with Nick.” To me, Annie was finally embracing her future and allowing her past to be part of who she would become. I saw her, this woman who had let herself be confined and held back, as driving toward her own self-determined future . . . and that Nick was the reward for that courageous choice,
rather than the reason for it. Not surprisingly, I did write the happy-ever-after reunion scene; it was in several versions of the novel. Ultimately, I decided against it. I thought it made the story seem smaller somehow. I preferred ending on the note that Annie had the whole world open to her and she was in the driver’s seat. She could go anywhere; to me, that was the happy ending. And let’s face it: We all know she ends up with Nick.

JMG: As the story unfolded, what did Annie do that most surprised you? Or did you always know exactly what her next step would be?

KH: I’m not often surprised by my characters. As a writer, I’m very in control. Perhaps it’s my legal background.That being said, however, I was shocked that Nick and Annie slept together on their first meeting. I knew there would be all the sparks of a long ago, never-quite-forgotten young love, but sex? I had no idea.

JMG: I’m sure that readers would love to see what happens with Annie, Nick, Blake, and the entire cast of characters in a sequel. Do you have any plans to write one? Or doyou feel that the arc of this story—and these characters—is complete?

KH: Of all the novels I’ve written, On Mystic Lake is the book that seems to demand a sequel. At least that’s whatmy readers tell me. To me, though, the story is complete. I’ve told all the story that’s mine to tell. They really do live happily ever after. I’ve learned never to say never, but I sure don’t see a sequel in the future.

JMG: Do you have any routines or rituals you adhere to while you’re writing, which facilitate the process and bring you inspiration and creativity? What are they?

KH: Like most working mothers, I have a pretty rigid schedule. For the most part, I write on school days during school hours. This allows me to take off a lot of time during the summer and winter breaks to be with my family. In a couple of years my son will be going off to college and then I imagine I’ll reassess this schedule, but for now it works beautifully. I get the best of both worlds: a career I love and the ability to be a stay-at-home mom. As for routines that inspire me and/or fuel my creativity,
I don’t really have any. I don’t light candles or burn incense or listen to music. For me, the best spur to creativity is living as full a life as I can—seeing and talking to
friends, hanging out with my family, traveling, going to the movies. The more I’m a part of the crazy madness of ordinary life, the more I have to write about.

JMG: You wrote this book several years ago. Does it differ from the novels that preceded it, and those that came after? If so, how?

KH: On Mystic Lake was truly a break out, path-changing book for me. Prior to it, I had been writing historical romances, and although I loved them, as I got older I found that I wanted to write bigger contemporary novels that reflected the world I saw around me. While many of my novels still feature love stories, they also now explore the myriad other relationships that touch and shape our lives. I have stayed on that path since Mystic. Most of my novels are centered on a woman’s coming of age—a thing that can happen at any time in life and always brings with it a host of unexpected choices and challenges.

JMG:
Is there a particular story idea that’s currently sparking your imagination? What can readers expect next from you?

KH: Currently I am putting the finishing touches on TheThings We Do for Love. It’s the story of an unlikely friendship that forms between a woman who can’t have children and the troubled teenage girl who changes her life. It is an intensely emotional, deeply felt novel that journeys to thevery heart of what it means to be a family. After that, who knows? I guess I’ll have to start hanging out with my girlfriends and my family and live life to the fullest . . . and see
where it takes me.

Praise

Praise

“Superb . . . I’ll heartily recommend On Mystic Lake to any woman . . . who demands that a story leave her in a satisfied glow.”
The Washington Post Book World

“A LUMINESCENT STORY . . . Hannah touches the deepest, most tender corners of our hearts.”
—TAMI HOAG

“MARVELOUS . . . A TOUCHING LOVE STORY . . . You know a book is a winner when you devour it in one evening and hope there’s a sequel. . . . This page-turner has enough twists and turns to keep the reader up until the wee hours of the morning.”
—USA Today

“EXCELLENT . . . ON MYSTIC LAKE IS AN EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE YOU WON’T SOON FORGET.”
Rocky Mountain News

ON MYSTIC LAKE
PROPELS READERS FORWARD TO THE FINAL CHAPTER.”
—The Seattle Times

“A big, beautiful story of love, family, and second chances. Kristin Hannah has written the Must-Read Book of the Year!”
—SUSAN ELIZABETH PHILLIPS
Author of Ain’t She Sweet?

“The phrase ‘page-turner’ is redefined. . . . A clean, deep thrust into the reader’s heart . . . Unfolds tenderly and with suspense . . . In Hannah’s world, nothing can be taken for granted and triumph must be earned, with hard work, truthful reckoning, and tears.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Brimming with the kinds of emotions that tug at the heartstrings . . . Hannah’s writing is all her romance fans have come to expect. It is as rich as the fertile Pacific Northwest rain forest she writes about and as soft around the edges as the fog on Mystic Lake.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer

On Mystic Lake not only touches the heart, it helps redefine women’s fiction for a new generation of readers. A haunting, evocative tale of love lost and found. A glowing, deeply felt tribute to the triumphant possibilities of self-discovery, personal growth, and change.”
—JAYNE ANN KRENTZ

ON MYSTIC LAKE IS SIMPLY WONDERFUL!”
—TAMI HOAG

“Hannah is observant and can turn a phrase. . . . [She] is superb at delving into her main characters’ psyches and delineating nuances of feeling. . . . I’m sure there isn’t a woman over the age of thirty-five who couldn’t identify with Annie’s sense of loss and abandonment, or share in her triumph as she regains her self-confidence and an identity separate from that of wife and mother. These jaded eyes actually got misty at the passages in which six-year-old Izzy implores her dead mother’s spirit to wait for her, my skin crawled along with Nick’s as he jitters through the early stages of his recovery, and I even felt compassion for the inability of Blake the cad to care about anyone but himself.”
The Washington Post Book World

On Mystic Lake is rich and dark, ripe with dense, smoky emotion, yet ultimately sweet at heart. . . . [The novel] is sentimental in the best sense, and like many of Hannah’s earlier books, cathartic. She can make you cry, and in the end, offer a quiet resolution based on real growth.”
Contra-Costa Times

“A beautiful novel, heartbreaking and tender . . . Hannah writes of love with compassion and conviction, her characters so alive and dear you can’t bear to see the novel end.”
—LUANNE RICE

“A BEAUTIFULLY SIMPLE, DEEPLY COMPASSIONATE STORY.”
—DIANA GABALDON

“Kristin Hannah breaks new ground in her powerful exploration of a woman rediscovering herself in On Mystic Lake. . . . Hannah has a signature talent for drawing deep into the hearts of her story’s characters. These are real problems, and Hannah is a master portrayer of the human spirit. On Mystic Lake is too good to share—so buy extras!”
BookPage

“A shining triumph that is not to be missed . . . Hauntingly beautiful and richly emotional.”
Romantic Times

“An extremely satisfying, insightful, and emotional tale. Fans of La Vyrle Spencer will certainly enjoy this moving book.”
Booklist

“Highly recommended . . . Fans of Anne Rivers Siddons will devour this.”
Library Journal

Kristin Hannah
“writes of love with compassion and conviction.”
—LUANNE RICE
Author of Home Fires

“Remember the last time you finished a fabulous book and made your best friend read it? Get ready to feel that way again.”
—SUSAN ELIZABETH PHILLIPS
Author of Dream a Little Dream


Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. On Mystic Lake opens with two scenes of leaving—Natalie fleeing California for England, and Blake quitting his marriage. How do these two acts set the tone for the
rest of the book? How is it significant that Annie has little agency, or choice, in these decisions?

2. At the beginning of the novel, how is Annie, in effect, trapped by her own image? How has she fashioned that persona, and how is it the creation of her husband, Blake?

3. Why do you think Kristin Hannah tells the story through several narrative points of view, including those of Annie, Blake, Nick, and Izzy? What does this add to your understanding of the novel? Is there one character that you consider to be the true voice of On Mystic Lake?

4. After Blake asks for a divorce, Annie admits that she’s put her family’s needs above her own. What events in her past have spurred her to do so? How has she been rewarded
for her selflessness, and how has it been damaging to her development?

5. Annie and Nick are both linked by loss in their families. How does learning to live alone—and discovering yourself in the process—constitute a theme of the book? In your opinion, who is the most successful at forging his or her own identity? Why?

6. Why didn’t Kathy and Annie keep in touch after high school? Do you think that Annie felt guilty about losing contact? Why or why not?

7. Why do you think Nick chooses to date and marry Kathy, in lieu of Annie? How does this decision affect the dynamic of the “gruesome threesome”? Ultimately, do you think Nick made the correct choice? Based on his memories of Kathy, do you think he truly loved his wife? Why or why not?

8. How does Annie react when she learns of Kathy’s suicide? What do you think drove Kathy to end her life? How has it affected Nick and, most notably, Izzy?

9. Why is taking care of Nick and Izzy so important to Annie? What tools does she use to appeal to Izzy, and to make the child feel cherished and cared for? What is it about Annie that appeals to Izzy, and vice versa? How does Annie’s relationship with Natalie parallel the rapport she enjoys with Izzy?

10. The relationships between fathers and daughters are integral to the development of both parties in On Mystic Lake. Compare and contrast the relationships of Hank and Annie, Blake and Natalie, and Nick and Izzy. What does each daughter want from her father? As the story unfolds, do the fathers change to become more receptive to their daughters’ needs, and if so, how? In your opinion, who has the greatest chance to establish and maintain a successful father-daughter relationship?

11. What does the compass symbolize to Annie? Why does she stop wearing it around her neck, and why does she begin to wear it again later? Why does she give it to
Izzy?

12. “It doesn’t matter,” Annie says to Nick about her love for him. At that point, why doesn’t she believe that her passion for Nick can guide her life? How is she a pragmatist, and how is she a romantic? Ultimately, what compels her
to change her mind and leave Blake?

13. Kathy didn’t want to “live in the darkness.” How do each of the characters in the book deal with grief, depression, and loneliness? What coping mechanisms do they use to cope and grow?

14. What shakes Nick into seeking help for his drinking
problem? How does his drinking mirror his mother’s? In what ways is he a product of the nature versus nurture argument?

15. Why does Izzy stop talking? What compels her to speak again, and how is Annie instrumental in drawing Izzy out? Why is she wary of speaking to Nick, and how do the two slowly rebuild a rapport? How does Annie facilitate mending the breach between father and daughter?

16. “Our lives are mapped out long before we know enough to ask the right questions,” says Nick. What questions do you think Nick would like to ask? In what ways are Nick and Annie trapped by having to do what is ex
pected of them? Ultimately, how do they exercise free will
over their own lives? How do the other characters in the
novel do the same?

17. Annie’s known in various ways—including Annie Bourne, Annalise Colwater, Mrs. Blake Colwater, mother, wife. How does each name or designation constitute a different
identity? At the end of the book, has she embraced one or the other of these identities, or has she developed a new one? How does she incorporate each of these identities
into a newly forged character?

18. What compels Blake to end his affair with Suzannah and call Annie? Why doesn’t she immediately return to him and to her marriage? How does he view her as a prize to be won? Does he exhibit love toward her? How?

19. How does Annie’s relationship with her daughter
change once Natalie goes to England? In which ways does Natalie look up to and admire Annie? With what aspects of her mother’s character does Natalie find fault? Do you think Natalie’s personality is at all similar to her father’s?
How?

20. How does Annie’s pregnancy represent a turning point for her? Why does she return to Blake after she realizes she’s carrying his child? Why doesn’t she remain with Nick?

21. How does Nick help Annie grapple with her fear and concern about the premature baby? How do his actions contrast with Blake’s behavior? Why doesn’t Annie’s husband
connect with children?

22. How do you think Annie would act and feel after signing her divorce papers? How is this character different than the one we meet at the beginning of the book? Why does Annie feel buoyant at the end of the book?

23. Do you believe that at the end of the story Annie will have a joyous reunion with Nick and Izzy? Do you think she’ll open that bookstore in Mystic? Why or why not?


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