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For years, the Starling family has gathered each summer at their North Carolina lake house. Here, they swim and fish, stargaze and dance, laugh and love. Now the tradition is coming to an end, as parents Richard and Lisa have decided to sell the treasured home and retire to Florida.


Before the house is sold, the family will reunite for one last weekend at the lake. But what should be a bittersweet farewell takes a nightmarish turn when the family witnesses a tragedy that triggers a series of dramatic revelations among the Starlings— alcoholism, infidelity, pregnancy, and a secret that Richard and Lisa have kept from their children for more than thirty years. As the weekend unfolds, relationships fray, bonds are tested, and the Starlings are forced to reckon with who they are and what they want from life.


Chronicling this cathartic journey in luminous prose, David James Poissant establishes himself as one of contemporary fiction’s most gifted writers. Suspenseful and shocking, heartwarming and humorous—Lake Life is a beguiling novel, a beautiful ode to the challenges and rewards of family.


Lake Life is a lyrically inventive and emotionally generous novel. Poissant is a gifted chronicler of the fault lines that lie just below family life.”

     —JENNY OFFILL, author of the New York Times bestseller Weather and Dept. of  Speculation

“A beautiful story about family and especially about the paradox of adult children. Vividly imagined and carefully rendered, Lake Life is both generous and unflinching. I loved every member of this functionally dysfunctional cast.”

     —KAREN JOY FOWLER, author of The Jane Austen Book Club and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

“By turns moving, tender, and wryly funny, this gorgeously written ensemble novel about the unspoken dreams and secrets and self-deceptions of a middle-class family is deeply insightful and rewarding. David James Poissant is a young writer to watch!”

     —DAN CHAON, author of Ill Will

Lake Life is an absolute wonder. By turns tender and wrenching, gorgeous and haunting, it explores what can emerge from the wake of tragedy and the depths of love. David James Poissant is a writer of the highest order, and this stunning novel is one readers will never forget.”

     —BRET ANTHONY JOHNSTON, author of the international bestseller Remember Me Like This

Lake Life is a beautifully written, expertly told novel about family and tragedy and love and loss. I read it in one long sitting, resentful of interruption—and when it ended I mourned the absence of the Starling parents and children and their spouses, and wished them well. I loved this book.”

     —ANTON DiSCLAFANI, author of The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls and The After Party

“When you find yourself thinking about a novel’s characters well after you’ve finished reading it, wondering about them and how they’re doing as though they were friends of yours, family, it means that you’ve found something truly special: one of those books that’s not just about life but somehow contains it. Poissant’s characters linger just that hauntingly, and his novel breathes with just that kind of life.”

     —KEVIN BROCKMEIER, author of The Brief History of the Dead and The Illumination

“Poissant has written us a book that reveals the danger and the pain, the humor and the love affairs of our everyday lives as a thrilling high-stakes adventure. Every moment in Lake Life is so full of tension that I could never find a good place to stop reading, so I stayed up late to finish instead. Here is a dysfunctional family I was rooting for even as I clapped my hands over my face and watched them choose wrong again and again. I am obsessed with the Starlings.”

     —CJ HAUSER, author of The From-Aways and Family of Origin

Lake Life is a terrific story, one that, over the course of a long weekend shadowed by random tragedy, delves into a family’s messy history, and finds there not only pain, but—thrillingly—stubborn survival, hope, and love. The Starling family will be with me a long time. I’m grateful for this book.”

     —CHRISTOPHER COAKE, author of You Came Back

“David James Poissant’s first novel is a model of how to render the souls of his many equally delineated and dramatized characters. Told in stirring language, it is the complex story of contemporary Americans, each dealing with a brand of loss: of children, of youth, of self-control, and of destiny. Here is a book that is heartbreaking and true, lilting and swooping, dark and light, wry and touching."

     —MICHAEL CARROLL, author of Little Reef and Stella Maris   

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One of Amazon’s Best Short Story Collections of 2014

One of Atlanta Journal Constitution’s 9 Best Books of 2014

Winner of GLCA New Writers Award for Fiction

2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist

Winner of the Florida Book Awards Silver Medal for Fiction


Longlisted for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction

The Heaven of Animals, David James Poissant’s stunning debut, has been compared to the work of Richard Ford and Amy Hempel in the Los Angeles Review of Books, to Anton Chekhov, Raymond Carver, and George Saunders in the New York Post, and was the subject of a full-page rave review by Clyde Edgerton in Garden & Gun. This “collection of vicious and heartbreaking vignettes” (The Orlando Sentinel) is a must-read for any fiction lover.

In each of the stories in this remarkable collection, Poissant explores the tenuous bonds of family—fathers and sons, husbands and wives—as they are tested by the sometimes brutal power of love. His strikingly true-to-life characters have reached a precipice, chased there by troubles of their own making. Standing at the brink, each must make a choice: Leap, or look away? Pulitzer Prize finalist Lee Martin writes that Poissant forces us “to face the people we are when we’re alone in the dark.”

From two friends racing to save the life an alligator in “Lizard Man” to a girl helping her boyfriend face his greatest fears in “The End of Aaron,” from a man who stalks death on an Atlanta street corner to a brother’s surprise at the surreal, improbable beauty of a late night encounter with a wolf, Poissant creates worlds that shine with honesty and dark complexity, but also with a profound compassion. These are stories hell-bent on hope.

Fresh, smart, lively, and wickedly funny, The Heaven of Animals is startlingly original and compulsively readable. As bestselling author Kevin Wilson puts it, “Poissant is a writer who knows us with such clarity that we wonder how he found his way so easily into our hearts and souls.”

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