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On Mystic Lake (Hannah)

On Mystic Lake 
Kristin Hannah, 1999
Random House
420 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780345471178

Summary
Annie Colwater’s husband has just confessed that he’s in love with a younger woman. Devastated, Annie retreats to the small town where she grew up. There, she is reunited with her first love, Nick Delacroix, a recent widower who is unable to cope with his silent, emotionally scarred young daughter.

Together, the three of them begin to heal. But just when Annie believes she’s been given a second chance at happiness, her world is turned upside down again, and she is forced to make a choice that no woman in love should ever have to make. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—September, 1960
Where—Southern California, USA
Reared—Western Washington State
Education—J.D., from a school in Washington (state )
Awards—Golden Heart Award; Maggie Award; National
   Reader's Choice
Currently—lives on Bainbridge Island, Washington.


Her own words:
I was born in September 1960 in Southern California and grew up at the beach, making sand castles and playing in the surf. When I was eight years old, my father drove us to Western Washington where we called home.

After working in a trendy advertising agency, I decided to go to law school. "But you're going to be a writer" are the prophetic words I will never forget from my mother. I was in my third-and final-year of law school and my mom was in the hospital, facing the end of her long battle with cancer. I was shocked to discover that she believed I would become a writer. For the next few months, we collaborated on the worst, most clichéd historical romance ever written.

After my mom's death, I packed up all those bits and pieces of paper we'd collected and put them in a box in the back of my closet. I got married and continued practicing law.

Then I found out I was pregnant, but was on bed rest for five months. By the time I'd read every book in the house and started asking my husband for cereal boxes to read, I knew I was a goner. That's when my darling husband reminded me of the book I'd started with my mom. I pulled out the boxes of research material, dusted them off and began writing. By the time my son was born, I'd finished a first draft and found an obsession.

The rejections came, of course, and they stung for a while, but each one really just spurred me to try harder, work more. In 1990, I got "the call," and in that moment, I went from a young mother with a cooler-than-average hobby to a professional writer, and I've never looked back. In all the years between then and now, I have never lost my love of, or my enthusiasm for, telling stories. I am truly blessed to be a wife, a mother, and a writer. (From the author's website.)



Book Reviews
Hannah is superb at delving into her main characters' psyches and delineating nuances of feeling.
Washington Post


You know a book is a winner when you devour it in one evening and hope there's a sequel. Such was the case with Kristin Hannah's new novel, On Mystic Lake, which is both a touching love story and a fascinating study of a woman's compassion for a small child...this page-turner has enough twists and turns to keep the reader up until the wee hours of the morning.
USA Today


Brimming with the kinds of emotions that tug at the heartstrings…Hannah's writing is all her romance fans have come to expect. It is as rich as the fertile Pacific Northwest rain forest she writes about and as soft around the edges as the fog on Mystic Lake.
Cleveland Plain Dealer


In her first hardcover after a distinguished career in paperback romance (Home Again), Hannah shows what it takes for an author to make that defining leap. Never one to gush, she is more than ever disciplined in her writing, and the result is a clean, deep thrust into the reader's heart. Annie Colwater knows she's in for a spell of loneliness when her 17-year-old daughter, Natalie, leaves Southern California for a summer in London, but the teary airport farewell is just the beginning of a chaotic time. Blake, Annie's husband, tells her that he wants a divorce so he can start a new life with his sweetheart, a young partner in his law firm. Blake's a cad—a habitual philanderer, and the sort of father who forgets birthdays--but we don't totally blame him for bailing out. Annie is Natalie's doting mother, Blake's dutiful wife and otherwise barely there. In search of the self she must find to survive, Annie goes back to Mystic, Wash., and the home of her father, gruffly loving Hank Borne, who did his best to raise her after the early death of her mother. Maternal loss is a terrain Hannah seems to know to a harrowing fare-thee-well. Annie's redemption begins with her profound kindness to six-year-old Isabella Delacroix, whose mother, Kathy—once Annie's best friend—has recently died. A romance with alcoholic cop Nick, Isabella's father, unfolds tenderly and with suspense, for all its inevitability. When Annie discovers she is pregnant with Blake's child, and then gives birth prematurely to a tiny girl who may not survive, the phrase "page-turner" is redefined. In Hannah's world, nothing can be taken for granted and triumph must be earned, with hard work, truthful reckoning and tears.
Publishers Weekly


The life of Annie Bourne Colwater has always revolved around her family's happiness, so she is unprepared for the day her husband announces he wants a divorce. Adrift in an unfamiliar and painful emotional landscape, she escapes to her childhood home in Mystic Lake, WA. What she finds are people needier than herself, especially her old friend Nick and his motherless, traumatized six-year-old daughter, Izzie. Annie welcomes the love she finds, but, more importantly, she unearths her own dormant soul. When life throws her yet another curve, it is a more dimensional Annie who rises to meet it. Susan Ericksen gives a stunning performance, capturing the very essences of Annie, Nick, and little Izzie, silent and frightened and disappearing one small finger at a time. This is essential for every public library along with a sticker warning against reading while driving and requiring a full pack of tissues. Expect Hannah, a notable romance author, to become a major player in mainstream women's fiction. —Jodi L. Israel, Jamaica Plain, MA
Library Journal


Hannah, after eight paperbacks, abandons her successful time-travelers for a hardcover life of kitchen-sink romance. Everyone must have got the Olympic Peninsula memo for this spring because, as of this reading, authors Hannah, Nora Roberts, and JoAnn Ross have all placed their newest romances in or near the Quinault rain forest. Here, 40ish Annie Colwater, returns to Washington State after her husband, high-powered Los Angeles lawyer Blake, tells her he's found another (younger) woman and wants a divorce. Although a Stanford graduate, Annie has known only a life of perfect wifedom: matching Blake's ties to his suits and cooking meals from Gourmet magazine. What is she to do with her shattered life? Well, she returns to dad's house in the small town of Mystic, cuts off all her hair (for a different look), and goes to work as a nanny for lawman Nick Delacroix, whose wife has committed suicide, whose young daughter Izzy refuses to speak, and who himself has descended into despair and alcoholism. Annie spruces up Nick's home on Mystic Lake and sends "Izzy-bear" back into speech mode. And, after Nick begins attending AA meetings, she and he become lovers. Still, when Annie learns that shes pregnant not with Nick's but with Blake's child, she heads back to her empty life in the Malibu Colony. The baby arrives prematurely, and mean-spirited Blake doesn't even stick around to support his wife. At this point, it's perfectly clear to Annie and the reader that she's justified in taking her newborn daughter and driving back north. Hannah's characters indulge in so many stages of the weeps, from glassy eyes to flat-out sobs, that tear ducts are almost bound to stay dry.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
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 thebook? 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 Izzy?

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? How?

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?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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