Idlewild Publishing

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By Gerald DiPego

IR Rating:
With themes of self-acceptance and connection to others, Gerald DiPego's expert, artful storytelling divulges the deepest yearnings of his small-town characters in the extraordinary LAKETOWN, a gorgeous and memorable set of four novellas.
IR Approved
A farmer appeases a rain goddess, four lost souls find solace in each other, a painter goes mad as his subject haunts him, and a city man confronts his rural doppelganger.

The four interconnected stories in Gerald DiPego’s LAKETOWN each take place in the rural village of Indian Lake, Illinois, where elements of magical realism turn the inhabitants’ lives inside out. In “The Man with Three Fists,” a 1950s farmer named Wenslow seeks to make a deal with an Aztec goddess that will relieve the curse of no rain on his corn after the death of his newborn son and the subsequent breakdown of his marriage. “Laketown Dead” sees the spirits of three Indian Lake youths unite in solidarity over the fear of forgiving those responsible for their deaths. The town’s talented sign-maker in “The Painter Loon” slowly descends into madness when a ghostly woman repeatedly visits his bed—only to disappear in the morning and haunt him from a painting. Thirty years later, in “Reunion,” a successful businessman returns to Indian Lake after being away for decades and discovers another version of himself who stayed—now married and running the local grocery store—which makes him question all of his life choices.

The tales are marked by a simmering darkness that takes an inspiring turn by each story’s end. Suspense in the form of characters’ potential actions propels the stories. Will the protagonists upend everything good in their lives to achieve their single-minded goals and reach a sort of self-actualization? Or will they find another solution to their physical and existential problems? This tension keeps the reader guessing through each of the four stories’ dramatic twists and turns.

The stakes are personal, centered on relationships and self-satisfaction with life, but they are high nonetheless. DiPego is skilled at excavating each character’s inner trauma, as well as their deepest fears and desires, through expert storytelling. The farmer Wenslow’s ache for the health of his corn (as a symbol of peace and unity in his fractured relationship with his wife), for instance, is as palpable as any physical pain he could feel. Whether it’s the heartbreak of a possible betrayal, terror at facing an eerie doppelganger, or ecstasy at reconnecting with loved ones and the self—emotions run high and deep throughout.

DiPego’s serene, artful writing style evokes a turmoiled atmosphere with vibrant imagery and sharp word choice. However, the many long-winded compound sentences occasionally drown out eloquence with their length. While they are grammatically correct, it is easy to lose the focal point in their serpentine structure. When taken slowly, however, innovative descriptions strike true in their elegance and evocativeness. A man avoids “that busy city of rodents he called his house,” for instance, and later a woman places a hand over “the quiet, steady engine of his heart.” The vivid, precise language shimmers, just like the lamplight under which moths “scribble,” and begs to be savored—like the words of a prophecy one character listens to over “the shrill beat of crickets.”

With themes of self-acceptance and connection to others, Gerald DiPego’s expert, artful storytelling divulges the deepest yearnings of his small-town characters in the extraordinary LAKETOWN, a gorgeous and memorable set of four novellas.

~Aimee Jodoin for IndieReader

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