+Book Review+ Up at Butternut Lake by Mary McNear #Contemporary story grounded in #realistic fiction.

Posted Tuesday, 14 October, 2014 by jorielov , , , , , 1 Comment

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Up at Butternut Lake by Mary McNear

Published By: William Morrow (@WmMorrowBks),
an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers (@HarperCollins)

Official Author Websites@marymcnear | Facebook
Available Formats: Paperback, Audiobook, Ebook

Converse via: #ButternutLakeSeries & #UpAtButternutLake

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Acquired Book By:

I was selected to be a tour stop on the “Butternut Summer” virtual book tour through TLC Book Tours. Realising this was a second novel within a series, I requested a copy of the first novel “Up at Butternut Lake” in order to understand the continuity of the characters & the story. I received a complimentary copy of the novel direct from the publisher William Morrow without an obligation to post a review. Whereas I received a complimentary copy of “Butternut Summer” direct from the publisher William Morrow, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired to Read:

Stories of second chances have always held fast to my heart, as life has this beautiful way of giving us a bit more than we’re expecting it to yield most of the time. The idea that there are ways to have a renewal of our lives through a second chance or a new beginning elsewhere from whence we are currently has a very alluring appeal! I have been an appreciator of Contemporary Romance & Contemporary Women’s Fiction for a good 20 years now, as I snuggled into a fierce appreciation for Debbie MacComber originally when I first started noticing both of these genres. Sherryl Woods followed 15 years later when I discovered the small towne of Serenity, and the series the Sweet Magnolias (although I personally refer to that series as ‘Serenity’). MacComber’s Angel series drew me into her narrative arcs, followed closely by the Cedar Cove series and Blossom Street; as I appreciated her style of story and the homespun sincerity of her characters. Being that both MacComber & Woods are going to have series based off their novels on the Hallmark Channel within the next year or so, humbles me a bit as I have this history of discovering both authors ahead of their newfound popularity. I even knew Debbie MacComber’s works would find a home on Hallmark Channel, but that’s a story for another time, perhaps!

I had started to curate a List on Riffle entitled: Contemporary Romances : Returning back to the Modern Era as I wanted to walk back into an area of literature I have started to negate reading. When I first had the opportunity to have a library card after a considerable absence, my checkout queue looked quite hyperactively complied! I simply couldn’t wait to grab this or that novel, and try this or that author! I started so many wicked awesome series by new-to-me authors, I have a list a mile long of ‘next reads’ to continue the happiness I had begun five years ago! Then, I started to shift my wanderings a bit, exploring new genres and/or committing to new styles of the craft of storytelling itself. My wanderings are always a bit decidedly serendipitous in their nature, but as much as I have a niche for being addicted to the historical past, I am equally entranced by the modern era!

I may or may not have highlighted my joy of giving back to deployed servicemen & women as much as I have a deep appreciation for the sacrifices and hard work they give whilst they dedicate their lives to others. Military fiction was a branch of literature I was attracted too as a young teen, and likewise, my passion for watching JAG, NCIS, NCIS: LA, & NCIS: NOLA originated out of my love of Jack Ryan stories (by Tom Clancy). Hallmark Channel has a lovely Romance with Lori Loughlin entitled: Meet My Mom of which I loved for bringing a realistic story to their offerings and shining a positive  light on today’s military families.

As soon as I read the book synopsis, I was hooked. I couldn’t wait to read both of these novels, whilst being wicked happy the third novel: Moonlight on Butterlake releases in 2015!

+Book Review+ Up at Butternut Lake by Mary McNear #Contemporary story grounded in #realistic fiction.Up at Butternut Lake
by Mary McNear
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

In the tradition of Kristin Hannah and Susan Wiggs, Mary McNear introduces readers to the town of Butternut Lake and to the unforgettable people who call it home.

It’s summer, and after ten years away, Allie Beckett has returned to her family’s cabin beside tranquil Butternut Lake, where as a teenager she spent so many carefree days. She’s promised her five-year-old son, Wyatt, they will be happy there. She’s promised herself this is the place to begin again after her husband’s death in Afghanistan. The cabin holds so many wonderful memories, but from the moment she crosses its threshold Allie is seized with doubts. Has she done the right thing uprooting her little boy from the only home he’s ever known?

Allie and her son are embraced by the townsfolk, and her reunions with old acquaintances—her friend Jax, now a young mother of three with one more on the way, and Caroline, the owner of the local coffee shop—are joyous ones. And then there are newcomers like Walker Ford, who mostly keeps to himself—until he takes a shine to Wyatt . . . and to Allie.

Everyone knows that moving forward is never easy, and as the long, lazy days of summer take hold, Allie must learn to unlock the hidden longings of her heart, and to accept that in order to face the future she must also confront—and understand—what has come before.

Genres: Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945)

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Also by this author: Butternut Summer, Interview with Mary McNear, Moonlight on Butternut Lake

Series: Butternut Lake, Butternut Lake Trilogy

Also in this series: Butternut Summer, Moonlight on Butternut Lake

Published by William Morrow

on 8th April, 2014

Format: P.S. Edition Paperback

Pages: 400

Author Biography:

Mary McNear
Photo Credit:
Amelia Kennedy

Mary McNear lives in San Francisco with her husband, two teenage children, and a high-strung, minuscule white dog named Macaroon. She writes her novels in a local doughnut shop, where she sips Diet Pepsi, observes the hubbub of neighborhood life, and tries to resist the constant temptation of freshly made doughnuts. She bases her novels on a lifetime of summers spent in a small town on a lake in the northern Midwest.

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Picking up the pieces : from loss & tribulations:

One of the hardest obstacles about living our lives forward without the benefit of understanding the events that will take place in the future, is being able to dig deep into our wells of strength and fortitude to accept the hope that our lives will start to turn back around. The thematics which are strongly represented in Up at Butternut Lake are an evolving exploration of Change (questions of destiny, permanence, and stability – of not only the mind, heart, and spirit but the physical locale of where your life will be lived); where each character who takes a central focus is at a turning point in their lives. Where they can choose to move forward and let go of the past that is weighing them down, or they can continue as they are without moving forward at all.

The complaisance’s of life arise out of the complexities of a cobweb’s worth of lies, spun innocently enough at the time they are created but woven into the texture of your life can become a haunting self-reminder of how untruthful of a life you’re actually living. Within the thematics of the story, this kernel of truth is an underscore that affects different characters in different ways, as the lies we tell ourselves to recover from something we feel we cannot face head-on are just as damaging as the lies which remain unspoken or proven untrue through the wrinkles of time itself.

My Review of Up at Butternut Lake:

Uprooting your life is one thing, but to completely re-organise your life after the devastating loss of your husband whilst he was serving his country on deployment overseas is another thing entirely. You can almost reconcile your actions as a healthy way of healing and moving forward, even if you cannot sort out how the days are ever going to feel they have a footing of normalcy again, but when you’re the mother of a five year old son, the task becomes numbing and hard. This is the opening of Up at Butternut Lake, as we gather the fullness of Allie’s world as she enters Butternut Lake for the first time in decades; to settle her affairs of uncertainty and to provide a method of a second chance beginning for her and her son.

Whilst Allie’s life has taken a full circle about-face, so has the life of Walker Ford – a bit of a recluse by most accounts of a downtrodden bloke felt it necessary to dissolve away from society and hole up in a small towne with little prospects of anyone becoming attached to him nor caring about him in general. Walker is a complicated character, half-jaded and half-resolved to his fate, starting to carve out a life for himself away from the public eye but also in an attempt to outwit his own soul from allowing him the chance to turn back the wheels and align his own story on a rhythm of where it derailed. He has few words to share with most, but he took a shine to a cafe owner (Caroline over at the local haunt of Pearl’s where service is best with a smile and a full plate of comfort food favourites) who never jerks him around nor allows him to succumb to self-pity either. Caroline is the mothering hen who watches over her flock with a genuine kindness that warms your heart. And, whose compassion towards her fry cook Frankie re-affirms the everyday compassion you can give to a man who simply needed a ‘re-start’ button in a world that was bent against giving it to him.

The full scope of the story settles in on this beautiful small towne at the waterline of the upper part of Minnesota where the lake meets the sky and where people are as down home friendly as their Southern counterparts. A towne where you can disappear into the folds of shadow but still have people caring about your welfare, checking in on you a bit, but allowing you the full benefit of ‘being removed’ if that is your intention. Butternut is one of those places that you feel you could put down roots if the cat mouse pace of a large city has expired past the joy of being caught up in the current of modern life. A place where time eludes to a softer expanse of the hours, where the clock isn’t a reminder of what you have left to do but the possibilities of where you can take your day.

I loved meeting-up with Jax, the long ago teenage friend of Allie’s whose fully withchild at her re-emergence into Allie’s life, mother of three lovely girls who re-set the standard (by not fitting the stereotypes), and an encouraging ally for Allie who has clearly lost her grip not only on reality but of how to put the pieces back together. Allie’s grief is realistically represented and I felt McNear gave special care and attention to how she treated the widow’s reaction to suddenly finding herself a singleton and cast off alone in the world without an anchor or oar. Jax and Allie’s lives take turbulent turns throughout the narrative, in surprising and alarming ways that not only test their individual resolves but test whether or not they have the strength to face everything they purposely avoided.

The underscore of the story is expertly intoned with hope fused with friction, gaining momentum with each page turnt forward into the next chapter. Your emotions are all over the place in the story, as Butternut Lake is a small towne full of angst, anguish, and a resiliency of people who are doing the best they can to overcome and find their way back into a rhythm of calm. Each of them has a hidden secret or two, a repository of difficulties, and a heart-warming fierce dedication not to let life muddle them into oblivion. They are the type of community who likes to latch onto an occasion to celebrate as much as work towards a resolution to whatever they are facing that gave them such a deep seeded woe.  Nothing is rushed inside Up at Butternut Lake, especially the heartache behind each emotional eclipse and the anguish of where relationships can sever and renew.

It is one of the few novels where I felt torn and betwixt each climax moment that arose for both Allie and Jax alike, as each of them were facing off against the blokes who had won their hearts. Neither of Allie nor Jax, knew how to appropriately be present for their relationships as far as a level of trust that ran the scope of vulnerability and honesty above reproach. Feeling vexed at Jax’s husband’s anger even knowing he had the full right to be as sore as he was with Jax tipped off my emotional heart, as I felt for Jax and the reasons behind why she held things back from Jeremy (her husband). I also felt that Walker and Allie were equally being unresponsive to each other and did not know how to properly communicate their thoughts and feelings for each other; providing a lot of relationship battlegrounds of emotional tug and war. Yet the beauty for me was watching how McNear took each of these couples into her writerly soul and beautified their story in such a way as to give your own spirit a jolt of uplifting hope by the time you turnt the very last page! This is a Contemporary Fiction novel that sparks alive within it’s own pages to become a Contemporary Romance that will be a fervent fixture on your ‘most beloved’ reads shelf!

Mary McNear has the craft of a story-teller breathing life into a gentleness of Contemporary Romance:

You want to stay soaked inside a McNear novel due to it’s uplifting ease of story-telling and the gentle spirit of guidance the author stitches into her story-line. You are comforted by the unease the characters are feeling vexed over due to the gentleness McNear uses as a guiding compass through their walk of tribulation. One of the best blessings for me overall is how she used her creative words and expressions to voice the thought provoking narrative to be a clean read and an enjoyable read altogether. She pierced the novel with bone chilling emotional arcs and relationships grounded in realistic encounters and plausible circumstances of any modern couple today could face. The story of Butternut Lake is more expansive than this one novel alone, as she has wrought such a hearty community of characters that you feel akin to each of them in different ways. There are of course the regular muck of a rake or rat as well, but even with the bit of darkness ebbing out of the light, McNear is a natural story-teller in giving you a strong read worthy of your emotional heart being pulled through the novel she’s put in your hands.

I have surely found a new writer to keep my watchful eye upon, and the fact that this was a “P.S. Edition” paperback from William Morrow was icing on my cupcake! I already have expressed my absolute favourite editions now are these little delightful surprise volumes where inside the Appendixes you get to either read an Author Interview or an Essay the Author composed on behalf of the story you’ve just read or a piece pulled from their research or any other part of their writing life that has become a blessing to discover! In this particular edition, we have an Author Essay based upon the impetus of how Up at Butternut Lake was created – rooted straight inside a true life story of a modern war widow who lost her husband overseas and left behind a young child. From there the interweaving glimpses of how a news story, a friend’s circumstances, and her own family history played key roles in her choices of how this story knitted together. I am not surprised to find there is a lot of ‘real life’ spun into this tale, because it felt intrinsically real and honest as you worked through the layers and understood each of the characters (lead & supporting alike) from where they were in their lives at the time you meet them in the text. McNear fused together fiction and reality in such a convincing way and gave us the full blessing of a narrative that you simply did not want to see come to a conclusion! How fortunate it is only the beginning of a trilogy! Two more installments to soak inside and appreciate the reprieve we spend up at Butternut Lake with the residents who feel like family! The companion Author Q&A gives you insight into who McNear is as a writer and her approach to the craft.

On a personal level, one of the best living truths that McNear included in the story is how despite the arduous circumstances everyone in Butternut was facing, the fact that they tried each time they could to focus on a bit of happiness out of ordinary life was the best bit of the story for me, because it held such a cardinal truth for life in general. No matter what obstacles we find ourselves in a rut over, we all have to remain vigilant to seek out the joy no matter how small and inconsequential we think it might be at the time, all those little bubbles of joy will soon start to become spilt over and overfill our own spirits with a tethering of hope that cannot be broken.

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This blog tour stop was courtesy of TLC Book Tours:

{ click-through to follow the blogosphere tour from April 2014 }

Next I will be reviewing “Butternut Summer” which is the sequel:

Butternut Summer by Mary McNear

“Moonlight on Butternut Lake” the third in the trilogy releases in 2015.

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This book review had a slight delay in posting due to my blog’s host server going down & keeping my blog offline for part of the early bits of the morning. I tried to stay online long enough for it to resolve, but exhaustion won out. I apologise for the extended delay in getting this posted. Thank you for your patience and I hope that you enjoy Butternut Lake as much as I do myself!

{SOURCES: Cover art of “Up at Butternut Lake”, author photograph, book synopsis and the tour badge were all provided by TLC Book Tours and used with permission. Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Bookish Events badge created by Jorie in Canva. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Buy links on Scribd excerpt are not affiliated with Jorie Loves A Story. Book Excerpt was able to be embedded due to codes provided by Scribd. Cross-posted to Riffle badge created by Jorie in Canva.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

The ‘live reading’ tweets I shared as I read & reviewed “Up at Butternut Lake”:

{ favourite & Re-tweet if inspired to share }

{ convo about Butternut Lake whilst my blog was offline }

Comments from Twitter:


About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Tuesday, 14 October, 2014 by jorielov in Blog Tour Host, Book | Novel Extract, Book Review (non-blog tour), Child out of Wedlock, Contemporary Romance, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Family Life, Flashbacks & Recollective Memories, Grief & Anguish of Guilt, Life Shift, Military Families of the Deployed, Military Fiction, Minnesota, Modern Day, Mother-Son Relationships, Realistic Fiction, Romance Fiction, Scribd, Single Mothers, Singletons & Commitment, Sisterhood friendships, Small Towne Fiction, TLC Book Tours, War Widow, Widows & Widowers

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One response to “+Book Review+ Up at Butternut Lake by Mary McNear #Contemporary story grounded in #realistic fiction.

  1. There’s something about the word “butter” that, to me, conjures warmth, luxury and flavor, regardless of how it’s used, so the titles of these books are appealing, just on that level :)

    I’m not one to read romance (haven’t in probably 35-40 years!). I tend to do that through movies more so, though rarely anymore either. These sound like good ones! :)

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