(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Gone-Away Lake, like nearly all of Enright’s books for children, is unabashedly a family story. As such, it divides its attention among a number of characters rather than focusing on a single protagonist. Unlike many family stories of its time, however, Gone-Away Lake continually reinterprets the idea of family. At first, Portia mothers Foster; on the train, to celebrate their first unaccompanied trip, she allows him to have three different kinds of pie for lunch. On their arrival, she remembers how much she likes her immense Uncle Jake, a newspaper editor, and his kindly wife, Hilda, “a talented creator of breakfasts.” Her appreciation of adventurous cousin Julian, an avid collector of butterflies, snakes, turtles, and many other interesting specimens, is echoed by Mrs. Cheever: “If cousins are the right kind, they’re best of all: kinder than sisters and brothers, and closer than friends.” Portia, astonished, “had supposed that this was her own personal discovery.” The old people form a parallel family, combining deep affection with a strong need for privacy; they live in separate houses at opposite ends of the settlement. Other parallels are seen in the animal world: Katy, with her puppies, and a mourning dove hatching eggs just outside Portia’s window. Fittingly, the end of this family story is marked by the reunion of the Blake family as the parents arrive to collect Portia and Foster and all the families combine to explore...

(The entire section is 559 words.)