Cormorant Lake

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What to expect

Longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

On a cold November night, Evelyn Van Pelt steals her roommate’s two underfed and neglected little girls from their beds and drives to the northwestern hometown she fled fourteen years earlier—Cormorant Lake. There, hidden in the mountains and woods, dense with fog and the cold of winter, Evelyn grapples with the guilt of what she’s done, and as she attempts to reconcile her wild independence with the responsibilities of parenthood, she reconnects with the two women who raised her—her foster mother, Nan, and her biological mother, Jubilee. But by coming home, she has set in motion a series of events that will revive the decades-old tragedy that haunts Cormorant Lake—and lead her to confront the high cost of protecting her secret.

At once fantastical and deeply rooted in the natural world, Faith Merino’s deeply affecting and spirited debut novel explores the shape of family, the enduring bonds of friendship, and the imperfections of motherhood—messy and beautiful, instinctive and learned, temporal but permanently life-altering.

Critics Review

  • “Faith Merino’s Cormorant Lake denies our agreed-upon boundaries between past and present, between the living and the dead, in order to reveal the many insanities of motherhood. The psychic dangers of wanting a child, having a child, stealing a child, giving one away, or trying to keep one healthy, all in the face of poverty—this is the sea the women of Cormorant Lake swim in. Haunted and haunting, determined to bend time and reality, to never look away, this novel is brave and true and satisfyingly scary, as it reveals us to ourselves.”

    Pam Houston, author of Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country
  • “The novel demands close attention, evades tidy resolutions, and proves to be adept at capturing what it means to care for others, covering the sacrifices, pain, joy, and connections that such work involves. Filled with sharp observations, Cormorant Lake is a novel about families, both chosen and otherwise, in which broad realities exist in nice contrast with fantastical elements.”

    Foreword Reviews
  • “Narrator Lisa Flanagan’s warm voice is perfect for this unsettling fictional exploration of the many manifestations of motherhood…Flanagan’s delivery of vivid imagery and her pacing of the story…also enhances this debut novel by creating well-crafted vocal characterizations.”

    AudioFile
  • Cormorant Lake has been called fantastical. But to me it reads as very real. It tells a story of generations of women who live without men. Parenting, husbanding, repairing their homes, caring for the sick and weak. Desiring. Women who haunt each other for what they’ve done and failed to do. Women who hurt their mothers, their children, their own minds and bodies, their friends. Women who try to hold their societies together by themselves. This darkly compelling debut mirrors a woman’s nightmares, and equally, her realities.”

    Katherine Forbes Riley, author of The Bobcat, long-listed for the Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize
  • “In Cormorant Lake, Faith Merino delivers a tough, touching, and quietly encouraging novel. Her prose is firm but nuanced and she is always insightful about the rough and ready world her characters inhabit, the conflicts and hopes and sad facts. Merino knows well both the shadows and the sun rays that dapple any life, and that makes for a very strong, even terrific, debut novel.”

    Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter's Bone
  • “Faith Merino’s debut novel is engrossing, haunting, and beautifully written. Fans of any genre will find something to enjoy here.”

    San Francisco Book Review (5 stars)

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