The One Where I Whine About Family Being Far Away + Review: Enchantment Lake by Margi Preus

Growing up, I had this vision of living in my hometown with extended family nearby1132dbf07640105e9956fa1a773e5593. My parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles all just around the corner. Sunday dinners, holidays, birthdays–all that fun stuff.

But life turned out different than that. We live in Ohio. My parents live in Arizona. My brother lives in Florida. Ted’s parents passed away, and his brothers’ live in Colorado and Las Vegas. We have aunts and uncles and cousins from California Colorado to Illinois to New Jersey.

But we don’t have anyone in Ohio.

Since we moved here, I’ve listened as my friends talk about leaving their kids with family. Sometimes just in passing, “We stayed over, after the game.” Sometimes complaining, “I can’t believe how much candy they let my kids eat and how late they stayed up! They were so tired this morning.” I hear them, sort of. But really all I hear is that they got to go out, without kids, for a whole overnight. Without planning and plotting and then running away quickly without looking back (we’ve only gone away twice, and our girls are 12 and 10).

I also really miss those other things that you take for granted when family is near. The holidays together, the Sunday dinners, the family birthday celebrations. There is a part of my childhood, with cousins nearby, that my kids will never know. My cousins were my best friends growing up, people who knew the ins and outs of my family better than my friends ever could. It makes me sad that my girls will never know that.

We chose this path, I know. We talked about moving to Arizona or back to Colorado, but we really like life in Ohio. I wish we could take our town and slide it west, but that’s probably not going to happen without a very weird natural disaster. So I won’t count on that one.

And it is all perspective. Having family over every-other-day could get really old, especially if they are the if-I-were-you type of people (my mom is not, so I don’t think I would have to worry about that). But I only really life know from my own perspective, and I would LOVE to have family near us.

We will continue to visit Arizona a couple of times a year, and we will love every minute of it. We’ll get to visit Colorado, and Las Vegas, and California, and New Jersey, and love that seeing family is such a treat. But at Christmas, and Easter, and Thanksgiving, I’ll wish we were in the same house celebrating, instead of wishing everyone happy whatever over the phone.

The world is different, and we do have technology to keep us closer. And it is wonderful that we can text, talk, e-mail and video chat with those thousands of miles away. I just wish everyone could easily be together for holidays.

That, and I wish we had family babysitters. But that’s second to the the holiday thing. Really.

And now, a great read for tweens and teens: Enchantment Lake: A Northwoods Mystery by Margi Preus.


In case you have been under a rock for the last couple of years, you know that YA books are big for all kinds of readers, even middle-age moms like me. I’ve wondered, as I’m reading some of these books, what exactly is a Young Adult? Some are written for younger Young Adults, others for those that are almost New Adults. Confused a bit? Me, too.

Enchantment Lake by Margi Preus is refreshing in that it is considered YA, but written for grades 6-10. There is very little violence, no sex, and a lot of mystery. Definitely a change from the violent, dystopian worlds or the sex-, alcohol-, and drug-laden high school students that seem to be the norm, according to YA books (that I assume are written for the older YA-ers out there). This is definitely one I’m putting in the pile for my 12 year-old.

The Premise

After receiving a frantic call from her slightly batty aunts, 17 year-old Francie (short for Francesca) drops everything in Manhattan, including an audition and school, and high tails it to Minnesota, to a beautiful place called Enchantment Lake.

Once there, Francie realizes that her aunts (that she hasn’t seen since her father died there is a strange accident 10 years earlier) have told the whole town that she is a detective, but really she just played a detective on a short-lived television show. Her aunts explain that they believe the series of odd accidents killing their neighbors aren’t really accidents. At first Francie chalks it up to eccentric aunts, but then starts to wonder . . .

Francie is reluctantly dragged into the mystery of Enchantment Lake, but soon discovers there might be something there. An unwanted new road, real estate deals, mysterious noises, and an enchanted treasure under the lake–they all add up to something, although Francie’s not sure what it may be.

Preus solves the mystery, but leaves us with the possibility of seeing more of Francie in future books.

My Thoughts 

This book was pure, innocent fun. Nancy Drew-ish, but Francie is a hipper, funner, funkier Nancy. The mystery isn’t obvious, the writing isn’t juvenile, but the content isn’t overly adult, either. It strikes the perfect balance: I liked it, and my 12 year-old will, too.

I give this one 3 3/4 stars. It’s a perfectly fun read for your kids. (And you probably won’t hate it, either).

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