Author Elinor Lipman's novel The Inn at Lake Devine explores the subtleties of discrimination between Jews and Gentiles in 1960s America.
Twelve-year-old Natalie Marx's first experience confronting anti-Semitism comes after her mother inquires about summer accommodations at a Vermont inn. The response she receives from the inn's owners reads, "The Inn at Lake Devine is a family-owned resort which has been in operation since 1922. Our guests who feel most comfortable here, and return year after year, are Gentiles." This infuriates and offends Natalie, whose heroine is Anne Frank and whose aunt died in the Holocaust. Unwilling to accept this response, Natalie spends a year harassing the inn's owner, Ingrid Berry, sending her letter after letter and even a copy of the Civil Rights Act.
The following summer, Natalie is able to go to the inn as the guest of Robin Fife and her family. Her mission is simple: to prove to the owners that Jews are indeed suitable guests at Lake Devine. Natalie's mission is unsuccessful, and once she leaves, she does not give much thought to the Inn at Lake Devine for a solid decade. Only when she receives an invitation to Robin's wedding to the eldest son of Ingrid Berry, Nathan, is Natalie reminded of the inn.
Upon her return to Vermont, Natalie finds herself in a quandary. She is drawn to the Berrys' younger son, Kris, who has recently endured unspeakable tragedy. Unwilling, however, to accept that their daughter has fallen in love with a Gentile, Natalie's parents intervene and forbid the relationship to continue.
The Inn at Lake Devine is a tale of both pride and prejudice in America as it sits on the cusp of the civil rights movement. Despite the fact that the novel explores religious rather than racial discrimination, it remains a poignant story of people confronting intolerance.
Published in 1999, The Inn at Lake Devine is one of Lipman's earliest novels. Her other books, particularly Isabel's Bed and The Way Men Act, have been widely popular as well. In 2007, Then She Found Me was made into a major motion picture starring Helen Hunt.