How a Woman Becomes a Lake is the story of a woman who goes missing in a fictional Pacific Northwest fishing town called Whale Bay on New Year’s Day of 1986. Vera, a filmmaker and university professor, takes her dog for a walk during a snowstorm at a popular recreational area called Squire Point and never returns. Seven characters tell the story of her disappearance, from the day she goes missing to the present day: the rookie policeman investigating the case; Vera’s husband; a father and his two little boys who were at Squire Point the same day she disappeared; their mother; and Vera herself. Over the course of the book, it becomes clear that some of the characters are telling the truth and others—not always.
Praise for How a Woman Becomes a Lake
"To the reader picking up this book for the first time: I envy you, such is the pleasure, depth, and beauty of the journey you’re about to take. Haunting, deeply felt, ingeniously constructed, How A Woman Becomes a Lake is a supremely satisfying novel, masterful on every level. I could not put it down.”
–Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Dreamers
"Absolutely stunning. Beautifully written, poignant, page-turning and shocking. A surefire hit."
–Jo Spain, #1 bestselling author of Dirty Little Secrets
“This is a rare book that is satisfying in every possible way. Beautifully written, clear-eyed and compassionate in its examination of character, it's also a gripping mystery that kept me reading late into the night. The story, and the questions it raises about love, loss, and family, will stay with me for a long time.”
–Leah Stewart, author of What You Don't Know About Charlie Outlaw
"How a Woman Becomes a Lake is a deeply empathetic and emotionally astute novel that reads like a thriller. Everyone in this troubling story is doing their best. And every one of Marjorie Celona's sentences glints with an ice crystal's understated beauty. This is a profound and generous-hearted page-turner."
–Deborah Willis, author of The Dark and Other Love Stories
“It is not lightly that I say: I could not put this book down. Celona’s writing possesses the clearness and poetry of a compassionate, all-seeing ghost. Each time a character crossed the page, I felt absorbed by their consciousness, invited to see the story from a fresh, insistent perspective. On the one hand, How a Woman Becomes a Lake offers a felt study of guilt, grief and blame. On the other, the story will challenge your conceptions of love, which can be greedy, as well as sacrificial and absolving.”
–Eliza Robertson, author of Demi-Gods
“This book has moved into me; it occupies and haunts me. Marjorie Celona writes with an empathy that manages to be both enveloping and exact. How a Woman Becomes a Lake is about what it’s like to long for your most secret self to be understood, while fearing that such understanding might kill you. It is a feral, echoing, complicatedly vulnerable work of art.”
–Sara Peters, author of I Become a Delight to My Enemies
"A woman’s disappearance sends out ripples of enduring questions. What happens when darkness is handed down from one generation to the next? How do secrets kept out of love warp the people who keep them? Marjorie Celona wraps powerful ideas about care-taking and morality around a tight, elegantly suspenseful story. This is a beautifully written book that I read compulsively, in a single sitting, all the way through to its haunting end."
–Alix Ohlin, author of Dual Citizens
"A thriller with stunning writing and real honesty about grief."
–Stella Duffy, author of Theodora
The Ormsby Review: "Celona’s genius is that she manages to show how flawed her characters can be while also demonstrating that flaws are not the total of their existence."
Winnipeg Free Press: "A complicated web of secrets."
Toronto Star: "A novel to feed your heart and mind."
CBC 40 Great Books to Read This Season:
Vancouver Sun: "an absorbing read from the get-go..."
Morning Star Online UK: "The book’s extraordinary sympathy and empathy is not at odds with its moral clarity and, for all it deals with tragedy, it is an uplifting read."
How a Woman Becomes a Lake is number 8 on the Toronto Star Canadian Fiction bestsellers list for the week ending April 8, 2020:
The Telegraph: "Celona . . . manages to pull off twists worthy of Harlan Coben . . . It’s a rarity: a book confected with satisfying artfulness that feels like a slice of real life."
The Sunday Express: "Cool, clear, melancholy . . . the mystery at the heart of the story is how lives can so easily fall into loneliness and disconnection. A beautifully sad read."
The Daily Mail: "An excellent novel about the indelible damage dysfunctional parenting can inflict on a vulnerable child."
The Irish Independent: "A highly original, beautifully crafted literary thriller packed with characters that linger long in the mind"
Crime Time: "Emotionally gripping throughout, combining strong, literary writing and the pace and mystery of a proper thriller"
Crime Squad: "What an absolute joy this book is. A stunning, literary novel told with such warmth and empathy."
CANDIS Magazine: "A fast-paced thriller with razor sharp twists and turns."
Quill & Quire: