Longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
On a cold November night, Evelyn Van Pelt steals her roommate’s two underfed and neglected little girls from their beds and drives to the northwestern hometown she fled fourteen years earlier—Cormorant Lake. There, hidden in the mountains and woods, dense with fog and the cold of winter, Evelyn grapples with the guilt of what she’s done, and as she attempts to reconcile her wild independence with the responsibilities of parenthood, she reconnects with the two women who raised her—her foster mother, Nan, and her biological mother, Jubilee. But by coming home, she has set in motion a series of events that will revive the decades-old tragedy that haunts Cormorant Lake—and lead her to confront the high cost of protecting her secret.
At once fantastical and deeply rooted in the natural world, Faith Merino’s deeply affecting and spirited debut novel explores the shape of family, the enduring bonds of friendship, and the imperfections of motherhood—messy and beautiful, instinctive and learned, temporal but permanently life-altering.
“Cormorant Lake has been called fantastical. But to me it reads as very real. It tells a story of generations of women who live without men. Parenting, husbanding, repairing their homes, caring for the sick and weak. Desiring. Women who haunt each other for what they’ve done and failed to do. Women who hurt their mothers, their children, their own minds and bodies, their friends. Women who try to hold their societies together by themselves. This darkly compelling debut mirrors a woman’s nightmares, and equally, her realities.” —Katherine Forbes Riley, author of The Bobcat, longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize
“Faith Merino’s Cormorant Lake denies our agreed-upon boundaries between past and present, between the living and the dead, in order to reveal the many insanities of motherhood. The psychic dangers of wanting a child, having a child, stealing a child, giving one away, or trying to keep one healthy, all in the face of poverty—this is the sea the women of Cormorant Lake swim in. Haunted and haunting, determined to bend time and reality, to never look away, this novel is brave and true and satisfyingly scary, as it reveals us to ourselves.” —Pam Houston, author of Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country
“Cormorant Lake is a beautifully written, haunting story that blends the fantastical and the utterly real to explore complexities of motherhood, place, poverty, and, above all, the boundless strength of women.” —Kimiko Guthrie, author of Block Seventeen
“This book is wonderfully dark and slippery—I loved how all the characters are haunted by motherhood both real and illusory, and how unsettled it made me feel while still being grounded in nature in all its harshness and in the exhausting struggle to keep going.” —Claire Fuller, author of Swimming Lessons, Our Endless Numbered Days, and Bitter Orange
“In Cormorant Lake, Faith Merino delivers a tough, touching, and quietly encouraging novel. Her prose is firm but nuanced and she is always insightful about the rough and ready world her characters inhabit, the conflicts and hopes and sad facts. Merino knows well both the shadows and the sun rays that dapple any life, and that makes for a very strong, even terrific, debut novel.” —Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter’s Bone
Faith Merino studied English at University of the Pacific and New York University. Her short fiction has won awards and honorable mentions from The Moth, the Jabberwock Review, Glimmer Train, and Boulevard, among others. A former journalist, she lives in Sacramento with her husband, sons, and dogs.
Lisa Flanagan is a classically trained soprano, comedian, voice-over artist, and Earphones Award–winning narrator.