The Secrets of Lake Road - Karen Katchur


I spent many summers as a kid at a lake in the Pocono Mountains, but not nearly as many as my sister, Krista, and our late grandmother, Ann. It was their love of the lake and its community that inspired this book.

Although this is a work of fiction about made-up people who just happened to inhabit a real place, I would be remiss not to mention the very real lake community, past and present, who are some of the kindest people I have ever known. Thank you for so many good memories.

Also, I would like to thank Joseph Shambo and the Whitehall Fire Department Underwater Recovery Team for being so generous with their time and answering all of my questions about the amazing work they do. Any and all errors with regard to underwater rescue and recovery are mine and mine alone.

I want to thank my agent, Carly Watters, for pulling me from the slush pile and taking a chance on me. Your belief and support overwhelm me. I couldn’t have asked for a better guide and advocate. Also, I’m grateful for my editor, Anne Brewer, who knew exactly what I was trying to do and helped make this book so much better than it was originally. My gratitude extends to St. Martin’s Press and their amazing staff for their continuous enthusiasm and hard work.

To Kathy Kulig, Terri Prizzi, and Sylvie Kaye, thanks for being there from the beginning, for reading almost everything I have ever written, and never letting me give up. You ladies rock.

A special thanks to my mom, Johanna Houck, and my mother-in-law, Mollie Katchur, for being such strong women and amazing role models.

And, of course, a huge amount of gratitude to my girlfriends in no particular order, Tracey Golden, Mindy Strouse Bailey, Tina Mantel, Kate Weeks, Karin Wagner, and Jenene McGonigal. I cherish each and every one of you for your warmth, your wisdom, your guidance, and most of all, your friendship.

And last, but certainly not least, to my husband, Philip and our two beautiful daughters, without whom none of this would be possible. You are my heart, my everything.


No one touched the bottom of the lake and lived. If you were lucky, you’d surface wide-eyed and frantic, babbling at the darkness, the thickness of what lay below. If you were unlucky, underwater recovery dragged the lake for your body.

As Caroline unpacked her duffel bag in the small bedroom where she had slept every summer since she could remember, she wondered who would be brave or stupid enough to try to touch bottom this summer.

The cabin door to The Pop-Inn creaked open and closed with a bang. Caroline rushed to the window to see who it was. A warm breeze blew, carrying the dampness of the lake and the smell of a barbecue. The leaves rustled in the hundred-year-old trees. She looked down the dirt road that led into the colony, catching her older brother, Johnny, pass by. If he’d noticed her watching, he pretended he hadn’t. He wasn’t five steps away when he lit a cigarette, a habit he perpetuated at the lake but never at home. Rules at the lake were lax if they existed at all.

He blew smoke from his lips and whipped his head to the side, sweeping the wavy bangs from his eyes. He walked down the hill with a swagger that was uniquely his, cool and a little cocky, but with enough insecurity that hinted at a sensitive side and, as much as she hated to admit it, a certain charm.

Caroline hoped Gram didn’t see the cigarette. “No smoking in front of Gram,” their mother had warned repeatedly during the three-hour drive from their home in New Jersey to the lake. But at sixteen-years-old, Johnny always did what Johnny wanted to do, no matter what anyone said. In a way she believed their mother was trying to protect Johnny from Gram’s wrath, a disposition Gram reserved solely for Caroline’s mother, but apparently her mother was as oblivious to that fact as she was to other things, in Caroline’s opinion.

She returned to unpacking, putting clothes into the dresser she and Gram had painted white last summer. Her mother walked into the room and handed her clean sheets. While she made up the bed, her mother leaned against the doorjamb with a far-off look in her eyes. Her long dark hair cast shadows in the hollows of her cheeks, making her face appear gaunt, haunted.

The way her mother looked, her expression, reminded