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Lake Overturn

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  315 ratings  ·  90 reviews
“Striking.... An author is lucky to bring one character so vividly to life: the gifted McIntyre has done it for all of his.” —New York Times Book Review

“I felt as if I were reading a modern-day Middlemarch.” — Kate Christensen, PEN/Faulkner Award-winning author of The Great Man

A finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and the Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley Award, Lake
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published April 21st 2009 by Harper
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Average rating 3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  315 ratings  ·  90 reviews

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Aug 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is a hidden treasure for readers who love well-written character-driven fiction. I was a bit afraid that this would be one of those cutesy, "colorful" books filled with a whole zany cast of (often Southern) small town folk with small town drama, but this isn't that book. There ARE a lot of small town characters and there is drama, but this book is on a whole other level. The characters are brilliantly crafted-so real it's almost uncanny, nuanced, flawed, often heartbreaking, and the au ...more
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Jan 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jenifer-reviews
We have a modern literary epidemic, admit it. Symptoms include apathetic narrators, shorter novels, yawn-inducing stories of the ultra-rich, unsympathetic characters, and the same old drivel about ultra hip city life. The cure is Vestal McIntyre, taking us back to a time when penicillin cured everything and characters were substantial, interesting, and freakishly relatable. Maybe I tire of a rich girl crisis or Sex and the City escapism, but for some reason, “Lake Overturn” was a big glass of wa ...more
Nov 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
In 2001 there was a natural disaster in Cameroon, West Africa and 1,700 people were killed in their sleep from a mysterious fog arising from Lake Nyos. This really happened but the rest of the book is fiction. I loved this book. I loved reading it and I loved thinking about it when I wasn't reading it. What made this book so attractive was the realistic portrayal of such a diverse population of characters and such a multi-dimensional story.

The story is about a small town in Idaho where the peo
K.M. Soehnlein
Jan 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This beautifully written book has the sprawl of a Victorian novel with the care and attention to detail of the best contemporary short story.

McIntyre brings to life an entire town in Idaho over the course of a year in the mid-1980s. I'm amazed at his powers of observation -- and the even-handed way he presents so many different types of people: a Mexican woman and the Mormon man whose house she cleans; her two sons, one gay and one a bully; the Christian mom in the trailer next door, whose own
Jul 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Clearly a labor, as so many first novels are; funded by the NEA and encouraged by Yaddo, McIntyre's first novel is a meandering, overstuffed ensemble small-town drama set in Idaho in the mid-80s. Mormons, teenagers, mothers, fathers, dying folks, drug addicts, and a science fair all orbit each other in a sort of detail-heavy, slow-cooked race towards an unclear finish. I give it 3 because while McIntyre's clearly very talented, the center really doesn't hold with Lake Overturn. It's about 2/3rds ...more
May 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Vestal McIntyre is a master of character driven fiction. I suspected as much when I read his short story collection, [You Are Not The One:], and this novel goes beyond what he accomplished in that book. The residents of Eula, Idaho are as light as they are dark, they are as happy as they are angry. Not one of them is a caricature, they are flesh and blood and the craziness that lives in all of us. Beyond giving us characters that will make you second, third, and fourth guess your opinions on the ...more
Nov 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Fabulous book for book clubs!! We had a great discussion with so many of the topics and issues that the novel presents. Just not my normal cup of tea and it was kind of slow for me since you jump from character to character with no real climax for any of them.
Jenny Shank
Oct 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
From NewWest.Net

"Lake Overturn"
by Vestal McIntyre
Harper, 444 pages, $24.99

Nampa, Idaho native Vestal McIntyre packs the life of a whole town into his accomplished debut novel, "Lake Overturn", set in the fictional Eula, outside of Boise. The characters are fresh and distinct with richly imagined inner lives, and they intersect with each other in unexpected ways.

McIntyre writes about people in every level of Eula society with sensitivity and insight, from Abby Hall, the privileged Stanford-boun
Donovan Richards
Oct 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
Literary fiction takes many forms. Sometimes it takes the shape of social satire placed within a simple narrative, other times it takes the form of an author, self-aware of the words he or she places on the page, and even still, other times it takes the form of a complexly interwoven plot. Partly masterful and partly mundane, Vestal McIntyre's Lake Overturn follows the characters of a small town of Eula in rural Idaho. Even though the setting and characters in this book strikingly resemble Napol ...more
Jul 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first stumbled across this book in San Francisco at A Different Light, shortly before the author was set to come discuss it. It looked interesting, but I never picked it up, figuring I could get it when I arrived home. Well, two years later I finally managed to find a copy and read it.

Lake overturn is a phenomena where carbon dioxide collects at the bottom of a lake and finally bubbles up to the surface, where it escapes and can kill anybody in its path. This, essentially, is what the story is
Jun 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
I have been reading memoir after memoir and watching bravo reality television episode after shitty bravo reality television episode. needless to say, my brain is melting and all of this trash consumption has hindered my ability to enjoy scripted television and fiction. it's all so sad.

I can thank Vestal McIntyre for writing such a gripping book and restoring my faith that I, too, can read fiction.

I got frustrated (but was still gripped) towards the end when skipping between character plots bec
Elizabeth K.
Jun 28, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended to Elizabeth by: NYT Book Review
Shelves: 2009-new-reads
I am very unclear as to how I feel about this book. It takes place in the 1980s, set in a small town in Idaho, the plot covers multiple characters and their interactions, direct and indirect. There are a lot of Issues here. Everyone has a big Issue looming over them - the kid who is figuring out his sexuality, the man having an affair, the girl whose mother is terminally ill, the woman readjusting to having her teenage son return from foster care ... everyone is a Lifetime movie. And a big part ...more
Feb 12, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
This was chosen for our book club and I was a little excited to read it. Well....I couldn't decide whether this was a 2.5 or a 3 for me. It seems like most books I read these days are just an average 3 star.

There was nothing earth shattering or enlightening here and the metaphor of the toxic lake was "piqueing" to my interest but it just didn't do that much for me. I think the author was trying to cover too many bases here and it read a little bit like a soap opera.

Lake Overtun is an easy read
Jun 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
I actually met Vestal McIntyre about a year-and-a-half ago, at a literary seminar. He's unassuming, funny, clearly smart, and had just sold Lake Overturn. He couldn't, or didn't describe it to me as anything other than hard to describe.

For me, Lake Overturn is very describable, and I'd use the same words I used to describe it's author. Unassuming: the novel is seemingly a quite simple collection of stories, set in a small, Idaho town, over the course of a about a year. Funny: the novel is dark b
Mar 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
I have a hard time with the rating system here. Largely because I think about reading more in relation to the parts of a novel rather than their sum. In this case, the sum was disappointing but the prose was very good for the first half and decent for the second. And from moment to moment I was enthralled.

However, if I were to be fair this is proably a 3 start book.

Writing from the POV of something like nine characters is perhaps over-reaching. I enjoyed each person's story and I appreciate that
Jan 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gay, fiction if any additional demonstration was needed not to ever move to, or even pass through, the state of Idaho. Oh, Jay, get the hell out of there to somewhere where you will be more appreciated! Wanda, it destroyed you beyond hope...Connie, you proved you don't have a single rational neuron in your brain...Coop, at least you found your salmon stream...Liz you bitch...Gene, you would so fit in at MIT if only you could escape...and Enrique, will you ever find love beyond the Greyhound men's room? ...more
Jun 29, 2010 rated it did not like it
About a third of the way into this book I realized that I really didn't care about any of the many characters. There are so many threads here: Lima, Enrique and Gene, the Halls, Wanda, Coop, Jay, Abby... and none of them made me want to read on. The stories are starting to intersect, and I can sort of imagine where they're leading but that's for other readers to find out.

Copy provided by publisher.
Jason Tougaw
Jul 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I've read this book twice, and I couldn't put it down either time. The characters are like crystal: beautiful, refracting evertying around them, breakable but pretty strong. The plot is almost nineteenth century, with lives intersecting unexpectedly and with a satisfying ending. Maybe we need more 19C-style plots written in the contemporary American vernacular. There's not a tiny dot of bullshit here. I say read this book.
David Driver
Jul 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Big yes on this one. I found it beautifully written, and pretty much loved everything about it. I wish I could make it into a movie, and hope someone does. If you know Greg Araki, please call him and tell him to do that. Or maybe Gus Van Sant? Not sure...
Jul 29, 2017 rated it liked it
There were a lot of issues and a lot of characters. I thought they would intersect in some big climax. Oddly, the most climactic moment was Abby's speech in summer school and she was a fairly tangential character. In the end, I found the whole thing strange.
gLawrence Baumgartner
Interesting story. Not sure what I expected but was pleasantly surprised by a story I did not expect. Found myself saying "I know these people". Not need to revisit or place author on pedestal, but worth the read if you looking for strong character building; borrow from the library.
May 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mcintyre-vestal
The central characters of this novel are Enrique and Gene, two middle-school kids of the CALVIN AND HOBBES-era (the mid-1980's, of course), who are planning to make a science fair presentation involving a replication of a natural disaster. They want to show that Lake Overlook, near their hometown of Eula, Idaho, can undergo the same thing that has happened in a lake in India: The burping of the lake, if you will, causing a deadly gas to escape. The opening of the novel (the title of which caught ...more
Lisa Vallier
Oct 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If you read, you'll like Lake Overturn by Vestal McIntyre. This is a unique and compelling story set in a small town in Idaho but really about Anytown, USA. Two young boys read of a natural disaster, called Lake Overturn, that happened in 1986 in Cameroon, West Africa. One of the boys, Enrique, decides to base his upcoming science project on the phenomenon. He asks his friend to be his partner but the friend proves to be more of a project than the model they build.

Enrique, his mother and brothe
Jennifer W
So far my main critique is that all the characters sound very similar and are not well introduced. I just finished a chapter in which 3 new characters are introduced, 1 "older" woman and 2 teenage young men. I still don't know how old the woman is, though she pretends to be the mother to one of the boys. So far, I'm not convinced that I'm reading the same book that everyone else seems to be raving about.

After finishing I still don't know what everyone was raving about. The characters were flat.
Anya Weber
Jan 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book could be a how-to manual for anyone trying to write literary fiction. I've read a lot of other novels like this one--teenagers and adults in a small American city come of age and face various crises. But McIntyre creates a seemless flow between their points of view, and even though the characters' stories are familiar, that doesn't make them less resonant.

Reading this, I kept thinking of Dan Chaon's books and stories, which are set in a very similar world. Chaon's stuff is weirder and
Tal Goretsky
Apr 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This beautiful novel embraces you from the beginning and pulls you into a story both dark and hopeful. Set in a small town in Idaho in the mid-80s, the story is told through several characters: two outcast junior-high boys navigating through the jock-ruled world of school; their single mothers - neighbors in the "good part" of a trailer park; a well-meaning 30-year old woman who can't help spiraling into trouble; her older brother, the school bus-driver; and two high-school girls who can't wait ...more
Jul 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
January 2010 update:
I think back on this novel so often as I read other great books, that I had to return and give it 5 stars, even though I wouldn't necessarily call it a "favorite". Below is my original August 2009 review:

This is a beautiful novel, definitely in the top tier. I was so immediately captivated by the story, I finished it one day. While not one of my absolute favorites, if I could, I would give it 4.5 stars. The book’s narrative reminded me of great ensemble acting in movies with
Nov 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is the story of Eula, Idaho, a small town with interesting characters living in it. It is the story of generations and what happens in their lives. Most of the book is about the people who live in a small trailer park. Some are of Mexican hertiage, some of native American and some are of mixed heritage. Connie and Lina are 2 single mothers who live there with their children. Their sons, Gene and Enrique are misfits, but the are brilliant in their own ways.

Connie is a nurses aide who cares
Jul 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
In the spirit of Raymond Carver, Vestal McIntyre’s remarkable debut novel, Lake Overturn, profiles the small American town of Eula, Idaho where the seemingly ordinary lives and mundane existences of some of its residents prove to be anything but simple and routine. Told from several different perspectives, the novel’s main characters include the youngsters, Enrique and Gene, who live beside each other in a trailer park, Lina and Connie, their respective mothers, Wanda, a recovering addict, and h ...more
Sep 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
Lake Overturn by Vestal McIntyre is one of the best books I have read in a very long while. It is a rare author who can introduce us to a cast of enchanting characters, while creating an intriguing story has well. McIntyre has succeeded on both counts.

Set in a typical Small Town, USA (Eula, Idaho), the reader is introduced to myriad personalities, each of whom the author gently breaths life into until you feel like you've known them your whole life. The story itself evokes themes of striving for
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Vestal McIntyre was born and raised the youngest of seven children outside Nampa, Idaho. He attended Tufts University, and has lived in Boston and New York City.

Lake Overturn: A Novel was published by HarperCollins in April, 2009. The Washington Post said, "In Lake Overturn, McIntyre has created a vast, intricate lattice of relationships, reminiscent of the novels of Richard Russo....Here is an au
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