The Tumble Inn
Syracuse University Press 2014
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“Although the book is fiction, it reads like a memoir. . . “
William Loizeaux’s passionate novel, “The Tumble Inn,” chronicles the lives of discouraged teachers Mark and Fran Finley, who relocate from suburban New Jersey to remake their lives as innkeepers in the Adirondack Mountains.
Loizeaux’s crisp prose immediately focuses on why the reader should have an emotional investment in the lives of the Finleys. Dismayed with students who don’t want to learn and their failed efforts to conceive a child, they respond to an advertisement seeking innkeepers. They are invited for an interview in the Adirondack Mountains. At first sight of the inn and its surroundings, Mark remarks, “… if I had to choose for a view to live out my days with, this would be the one.” Although they exaggerated their qualifications, they still land the job.
For the first year, with help of neighbors, Mark learns to operate and maintain equipment while Fran learns to cook for guests. They struggle through the winter learning to snowshoe. Elated with arrival of summer they venture on a walk up a brook where they are attacked by a swarm of gnats. In this scene, Loizeaux’s humor and tenderness marks his talent as a sincere writer, one that doesn’t need a lot of drama to project a scene. In a “pastoral” and “romantic setting” under attack by gnats they were certain they will soon have a child, one named “Nat” or “Natalie.”
Fran gives birth to a girl at home with Mark’s help. Their lives don’t dramatically change, until Natalie becomes a teenager who is hanging out with problem students and indulging in alcohol and drugs. Desperate, Mark and Fran impose boundaries that essentially transform them into prison guards. “One thing that happens when you and spouse are busy innkeepers and living with a hormone-pumped seventeen-year old: you have to do some clever planning,” Mark laments. Still much in love with Fran, Mark develops a plan to spend time alone with his wife, a decision that leads to tragedy.
Although the book is fiction, it reads like a memoir, which is no surprise since Loizeaux has written a memoir about the death of his child, and he is familiar with the Adirondack Mountains where the couple have vacationed every summer at an old inn once owned by his wife’s family.
Reviewer: Kate Padilla