“A beautifully simple, deeply compassionate story.”—Diana Gabaldon
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. . . .
Praise for On Mystic Lake
“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
“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 . . . Kristin Hannah touches the deepest, most tender corners of our hearts.”—Tami Hoag
“Excellent . . . On Mystic Lake is an emotional experience you won’t soon forget.”—Rocky Mountain News
“Propels readers forward to the final chapter.”—The Seattle Times
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||3 MB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
From Part One
The true voyage of self-discovery
lies not in seeking new landscapes
but in having new eyes.
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.
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.
Reading Group Guide
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
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?
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?