The Boy and the Lake Release Blitz

Title: The Boy and the Lake
Author: Adam Pelzman
Genre: Literary Fiction, Family Saga Fiction
Release Date: October 7, 2020


Set against the backdrop of the Newark riots in 1967, a teenage Benjamin Baum leaves the city to spend the summer at an idyllic lake in northern New Jersey. While fishing from his grandparents’ dock, the dead body of a beloved neighbor floats to the water’s surface—a loss that shakes this Jewish community and reveals cracks in what appeared to be a perfect middle-class existence. Haunted by the sight of the woman’s corpse, Ben stubbornly searches for clues to her death, infuriating friends and family who view his unwelcome investigation as a threat to the comfortable lives they’ve built. As Ben’s suspicions mount, he’s forced to confront the terrifying possibility that his close-knit community is not what it seems to be—that, beneath a façade of prosperity and contentment, darker forces may be at work.

In The Boy and the Lake, Adam Pelzman has crafted a riveting coming-of-age story and a mystery rich in historical detail, exploring an insular world where the desperate quest for the American dream threatens to destroy both a family and a way of life.




The Boy and the Lake is a poignant and haunting coming-of-age story … a multifaceted, evocative and masterfully told tale.” —Lynda Cohen Loigman, USA Today bestselling author of The Two-Family House and The Wartime Sisters

“Pelzman excels at creating an intensely atmospheric setting and revealing how it shapes his characters’ identities and worldviews … The narrative is full of rich, descriptive language … a well-developed vintage setting and classic but thought-provoking coming-of-age theme.” —Kirkus Reviews


Chapter 1 
  
June 1967 
I can recall with near perfect clarity the moment I saw  Helen Lowenthal’s bloated body slide up through a carpet  of emerald water lilies and bob on the water’s surface like  a ghostly musk turtle. In the seconds before her lifeless  ascent, a constellation of fireflies—tiny flickering fur 
naces—danced and glowed in the early summer dusk; a  white egret, all legs and neck, landed atop Split Rock and  stood regal guard over the lake; a long-eared bat carved  wicked arcs through the sky before devouring a plump  imperial moth. 
From the direction of Second Beach, Nathan Gold’s  pontoon boat—the Ark—puttered along the shoreline  with four prosperous couples reveling in their evening  cocktails. A symphony of big bands, laughter, and giddy  howls poured off the boat and tumbled across the lake’s  still water. Nathan and his wife, Bea—a gregarious, stocky  woman—called out to me as they passed, and I waved back with delight, wondering how two people could be so  festive, so happy, so often. 
Bonnie Schwartz, my mother’s friend, was also on  the boat. She was considered by many to be the prettiest  woman on the lake, as was her mother before her. I waved  to her with the hope of some reciprocity—maybe a nod or  a simple smile in my direction—but this auburn beauty,  distracted by her empty martini glass, did not notice  me—an omission that punished my fragile sixteen-year old heart. 
I sat on the edge of the dock, my feet immersed in the  water of our beloved New Jersey lake. As the Ark turned  north toward the clubhouse, the boat’s wake caused the  pungent, algal water to lap against my calves. I held a  wooden fishing pole that Papa, my grandfather, had given  me when I was six. The hook baited with a throbbing night  crawler, I watched as the red-and-white bobber teased me  with a quick downward thrust, only to rise to the surface  and drift with rippled ease. Clever fish, I thought. 
A few seconds before the swollen body emerged,  I turned back to look at my grandparents’ summerhouse.  I could see Nana flitting about the screened-in porch, set ting the table for yet another dinner party, while Papa  probed the lawn for moles, angling empty glass bottles  into their holes with the open ends facing downward.  “Makes a howling noise, Ben,” he once told me as he  guided a beer bottle into the earth. “Drives them crazy,  like psychological warfare.” 
What I noticed first in the water before me was not a  body, but a flutter in the lilies that I mistook for a jumping  frog. It was only when the attenuated rays of the descend ing summer sun flashed off Helen’s gold and diamond watch that I realized something terrible had occurred.  I gasped and leapt to my feet. “God,” I mumbled and  raised my right foot as if to take a step forward, toward  the body. “Papa!” I yelled, dropping the rod to the dock.  “Papa, come down!” 
Despite his old age, my grandfather was a lithe and  energetic man who, after numerous injuries and sur geries, had somehow managed to retain much of the  athleticism of his youth. He was alarmed by the distress in  my voice, for he threw a bottle to the ground and dashed  down the slate path to the water’s edge. I glanced up to  my grandmother, who stood frozen on the porch, right  hand on chest, her mouth open. 
“There!” I shouted to Papa and pointed to the blue white body of his next-door neighbor. Helen Lowenthal,  whose rare kindness had evoked in me the greatest loy alty, was dressed in a pink tennis skirt and matching top.  Barefoot, she floated on her back, her face dappled with  lake slime, her dyed blonde hair draped over a mat of  lilies, her pale arms elevated above her head as if she  were a surrendering soldier. I took another step closer,  toward the water. I found myself drawn to her body, to its  deadness, to its serene, haunted passage, as one is drawn  to the very things—once beautiful, now rotten—that  intrigue us, that repulse us with their incomprehensible  transformation. 
Papa reached the dock and grabbed my arm. He  stared at the body in silence, then, as if looking for a clue,  scanned the shoreline and the lake’s expanse. A hundred  feet from the dock, in a pool of quiet water, an elderly  couple fished from an anchored motorboat; the Ark continued its journey toward the clubhouse, a familiar Ella 
Fitzgerald melody drifting off the stern; a small sailboat  floated in the windless dusk; and the white egret elevated  from Split Rock, relinquishing its perch in search of food. 
“Go inside and call the police,” Papa cried. “It’s Helen,  you know.” He wiped the sweat from his face then, pant ing, bent over at the waist. “Helen … Lowenthal,” he  said through heavy breaths, before stepping down, fully  clothed, into the shallow water. 
I watched as he struggled to traverse the muddy lake  floor, the water rising from his knees, to his waist, to  his chest. When he reached Helen, he touched a small  bruise on her forehead. He then grasped her left hand and  guided her—belly-up—toward the shore, her body slicing  through the water with ease and purpose. As I watched  this scene unfold, I was immobilized by my first close con tact with death. I stared at her corpse with a vast fear,  with a revulsion that shamed me, and, I would later acknowledge, with something approximating wonderment. With great care, Papa placed his palm on the side  of Helen’s head—a tender movement that protected her  from hitting a protruding rock. Now just feet from the  shore, the water knee-deep, he turned to me. “Go, Ben,”  he demanded. “Go now!” 
Unable to divert my eyes from the scene before me,  I moved slowly up the dock. I watched as Papa stepped  up onto the shore, his legs heavy from the weight of his  sodden pants. I watched as he lifted Helen, as he groaned  in exertion, and then gently laid her down on the spongy  moss. I took one last look at the woman. She wore the  fancy watch her husband had given her for their twenti eth anniversary, and on her left hand was an engagement  ring, the one with a diamond so large that some of the women from the bridge club had started a rumor that the  stone was fake. I glanced at her toenails, painted cherry  red, and at her slime-lacquered face. 
“Go!” Papa screamed, now with fury in his eyes. And  then I ran to the house and into my grandmother’s fleshy,  perfumed embrace. I ran to a safe place.


Adam Pelzman was born in Seattle, raised in northern New Jersey, and has spent most of his life in New York City. He studied Russian literature at the University of Pennsylvania and went to law school at UCLA. His first novel, Troika, was published by Penguin (Amy Einhorn Books). He is also the author of The Papaya King, which Kirkus Reviews described as “entrancing,” “deeply memorable” and “devilishly smart social commentary.” The Boy and the Lake, set in New Jersey during the late 1960s, is his third novel.


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