The Girl of the Lake

The drawback to Bill Roorbach's (The Remedy for Love) story collection is that each of the nine feels like it should keep going. Not that the tales in The Girl of the Lake are incomplete; they're so engaging that, as carefully crafted stories do, they create a world inviting the reader to stay a while.

Settings span the globe. In "The Fall," Jean and Timothy take a remote Maine trail for a camping trip as doomed as their relationship. Robert and Phillippe (not a couple!) snag a complimentary Mediterranean vacation in "Princesa," where they meet fellow international revelers and open themselves to new experiences. Recently widowed Miller Malloy volunteers with over-the-top enthusiasm at the floundering New Hampshire summer theater his wife supported in "The Tragedie of King Lear." And a summer fellowship at Oxford resonates decades later when a roommate becomes king of an unnamed African country in "Dung Beetle."

Roorbach, who lives in Maine, reveals a naturalist's affection for the earth, and his stories are hopeful. When the Michigan farmer in "Some Should" leaves her sheep and organic crops to meet an Episcopal priest for a blind date in Ann Arbor, her reluctant enthusiasm is rewarded. In the titular final story, a 17-year-old boy is the last cousin to spend the summer with Grandma in the New Hampshire cottage on land shepherded by generations of his family. The story brims with an optimism sure to leave the reader feeling upbeat. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

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