The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman
I have been told to make the Latin curriculum relevant to the lives of my students. I am finding, though, that my advanced girls at Heart Lake like Latin precisely because it has no relevance to their lives. They like nothing better than a new, difficult declension to memorize. They write the noun endings on their palms in blue ballpoint ink and chant the declensions, 'Puella, puellae, puellae, puellam, puella...' like novices counting their rosaries.
When it comes time for a test they line up at the washroom to scrub down. I lean against the cool tile wall watching them as the washbasins fill with pale blue foam and the archaic words run down the drains. When they offer to show me the undersides of their wrists for traces of letters I am unsure if I should look. If I look, am I showing that I don't trust them? If I don't look, will they think I am naive? When they put their upturned hands in mine--so light-boned and delicate--it is as if a fledgling has alighted in my lap. I am afraid to move.
In class I see only the tops of their hands--the black nail polish and silver skull rings. One girl even has a tattoo on the top of her right hand--an intricate blue pattern that she tells me is a Celtic knot. Now I look at the warm pink flesh--their fingertips are tender and whorled from immersion in water, the scent of soap rises like incense. Three of the girls have scratched the inside of their wrists with pins or razors. The lines are fainter than the lifelines that crease their palms. I want to trace their scars with my fingertips and ask them why, but instead I squeeze their hands and tell them to go on into class. 'Bona fortuna,' I say. 'Good luck on the test.'
This is the third book I've read by Carol Goodman and I've liked them all. She has a way of writing about girls and schools and upstate New York that I am drawn to. Her books are good selections for R.I.P. XIII - definitely got the 'spooky' going on. The Lake of Dead Languages is this author's debut novel and it's been out for over 15 years. I listened to it, narrated by Vivienne Benesch, over several days and was really immersed in the story. There are secrets and lies and friends and enemies. There's a missing notebook from a long time ago. There's Latin (which I know almost nothing about) and classic tales and myths. There's a lake in winter and storms and ice skating and definite creepy elements. Some of the twists in the story are more common these days, but I suspect that they were most unexpected when it was written. The story is not terribly fast paced, but that worked fine for me. I'm working my way through Goodman's backlist and I'm delighted that I read this one. It's recommended! Have you read any of this author's books? Her newest, The Other Mother, came out earlier this year. I've not had a chance to get to it, but I'll make time for it soon.
Twenty years ago, Jane Hudson left the Heart Lake School for Girls in the Adirondacks after a terrible tragedy. Now she has returned to the placid, isolated shores of the lakeside school as a Latin teacher, recently separated and hoping to make a fresh start with her young daughter. But ominous messages from the past dredge up forgotten memories that will become a living nightmare.
Since freshmen year, Jane and her two roommates, Lucy Toller and Deirdre Hall, were inseparable–studying the classics, performing school girl rituals on the lake, and sneaking out after curfew to meet Lucy’s charismatic brother Matt. However, the last winter before graduation, everything changed. For in that sheltered, ice-encrusted wonderland, three lives were taken, all victims of senseless suicide. Only Jane was left to carry the burden of a mystery that has stayed hidden for more than two decades in the dark depths of Heart Lake.
Now pages from Jane’s missing journal, written during that tragic time, have reappeared, revealing shocking, long-buried secrets. And suddenly, young, troubled girls are beginning to die again . . . as piece by piece the shattering truth slowly floats to the surface.