“The heart is crazy when it needs what it needs.” Passionate yearning is nicely encapsulated in this line from Lost Girl of the Lake, a coming of age tale written by Joe McKinney and Michael McCarty. Adolescence has its own innate set of horrors but, in the case of the novella’s young protagonist, there’s a supernatural terror that stems from physical attraction. Freud had a field day with snakes as sexual images. McKinney and McCarty likewise revel in the reptilian in their yarn. Told in retrospect, the narrative is more wistful than venomous. The focus is on shedding one’s emotionally-protective skin. Intimacy is dicey at any age, but a seductive naked girl beckoning from a lake during summer proves hard to resist. The authors strike a lovely balance between youthful bravado and teen-aged fears of inadequacy. Going all the way is life altering, and its potential perils and pitfalls are taken to the horrific extreme in the story.
The first person narrator leads the reader back to 1961. Cary Grant, instead of George Clooney, personified suave. And male teenagers tried to cultivate that particular polished charm, while battling personal sensations of awkwardness. Mark Gaitlin is 15 years old, and comes from a privileged background. His family is very wealthy, and fits into Texas high society with ease. Mark, despite the elitist status, is still an adolescent boy who must fathom his own way into manhood. He’s had some obscure talks with his dad regarding heredity and perspicacity. But no father and son superficial bonding can prepare Mark for the intoxicating affects of carnal desire: “I was swaying like a drunk. Her touch had done something to me that I still, to this day, don’t understand. I was floating, but at the same time, hyper-aware of even the most minute sensory input. I could hear the roar of butterfly wings. I could feel the dust in the breeze touching my skin. Every beat of my heart was an explosion in my chest. My lips were trembling.”
Many years later, parent and child come to terms with their respective experiences. And realize that blood is only part of the relationship they share. There are many layers to this short book, and a cursory reading won’t do it justice. There is more to Lost Girl of the Lake than what would initially meet the eye. Joe McKinney and Michael McCarty use an economy of words to relate a multitude of feelings. They capture a time, and that sense of not-so-quiet-urgency simmering just beneath the surface of being young.