The summer between my junior and senior year of college I did summer stock at U of I. I’ll never forget that summer. The rehearsals, the friendships, the romances, the drinking, the smoking, the late nights, the FUN. Oh to be young and have your whole life ahead of you.
When I read Ann Patchett’s book Tom Lake I was suddenly reliving my own summer and reflecting on the decisions I did and didn’t make since those heady days of youth.
In Patchett’s book, we meet a family during the pandemic. The three adult daughters have returned to their parents cherry farm in MI to help with the picking. To make the picking of cherries go faster, the daughters pester their mom to retell the story of her time spent in summer stock when she was young and daring and engaging in other stuff young people do AND on the cusp of becoming a theatrical star while dating a guy who would actually become a huge Hollywood star.
The book switches back and forth between wonderfully rendered chapters of past and present as the daughters plead with their mom to divulge about that time—why she didn’t become an actress, why she didn’t stay with the soon to be movie star, and why she married a cherry farmer and had children instead.
It’s an engrossing story about the choices we make and don’t make, about whether we would do our lives differently if we had to do it over again. It’s also about the beauty of simple things, of family, of relationships, of love and hope and questioning in a time when everything in the world seems uncertain.