A poet, Mary Stone Walker, disappears in the 1930's. Is it a case of murder, born of domestic abuse? Or did she commit suicide? Kalamazoo-area author Jacquelyn Vincenta addresses tough issues of domestic violence and addiction through fictional families then and today in her debut novel, The Lake and the Lost Girl (Sourcebooks Landmark, 2017).
“Mary Stone Walker is a fictional poet that I created, who disappeared off a pier in Michigan in 1939,” says Vincenta. “Her body was never found and so, over the years, there’s been speculation whether she was murdered. Her husband was a temperamental man but she was also troubled. Did she kill herself? Was she kidnapped? What our present day protagonists hope is that she went on to live and write.”
Those protagonists are Lydia and Frank Carroll. As a romance writer, Lydia Carroll takes an interest in Walker’s life story. But the lost poet becomes an obsession for her husband. As his obsession grows, everything else in the professor’s life is shoved aside — including his wife, their son, his career, and their finances. Frank Carroll’s treatment of his family becomes ever more abusive.
Vincenta says writing about physical and emotional abuse as forms of domestic violence, “was a driving force in the creation of the novel. The insidious destruction of emotional abuse is something that is present in very many families, many relationships. It’s maddening to watch this happen with people, their dreams, their sense of self being corroded from the inside.”
Parallels between the abuse in the Carroll family and in the missing poet’s marriage become clearer the story unfolds.
“Mary’s abuse was mostly emotional and verbal as well,” Vincenta says. “Her primary relationship undercut her sense of self, her value as a poet.”
Vincenta also writes about addiction, addictive behavior, and how it often goes hand-in-hand with abusive relationships. She deals with alcoholism in the novel, but also behaviors that become irrational and excessive, further straining family bonds.
Vincenta has several author events, including a reading at 2 p.m., November 4, at the Portage District Library, and at 6:30 p.m., November 6, at the Oshtemo Branch of the Kalamazoo Public Library. Details are available at the libraries' websites.
Jacquelyn Vincenta began her writing career as a police beat reporter for a daily newspaper in Louisiana. She was for many years a managing editor for a publishing company specializing in international trade issues. She now lives in Portage.
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