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The Reserve    by Russell Banks order for
by Russell Banks
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Joan Burton

High in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York is a community to which only the elite and wealthy have access. Private cottages, a golf course, and a country club are nestled amongst pristine lakes for swimming and fishing. The area is called the Reserve and the locals earn their livelihood by catering to visitors' needs - whether for housekeeping, fishing guides, or handymen.

Vanessa Cole is a beautiful young woman in her thirties. Twice divorced, the adopted daughter of Doctor and Mrs. Cole, she is spending time at the Reserve with her parents and their friends. Wild by nature, Vanessa has been associated with many rich and famous men. Alone again, she is getting restless and craves male attention. Her parents know that she is emotionally unstable but they have no control over her.

Jordan Groves, a local artist who is wealthy in his own right, lives close to the Reserve. He is well known for his work and also his sexual exploits. A married man and father of two young children, he works from his studio at home. He has been invited to the Reserve to view paintings by another artist. As he lands his plane on the beautiful Upper Lake, Vanessa is waiting for him.

Before long Jordan falls for Vanessa's charms. When her father dies suddenly from a heart attack at the cottage he is there to comfort her. Dr. Cole's death leaves Vanessa spinning out of control and she confronts her mother with a dark secret she has kept hidden since childhood. Her mother denies the accusations but mistakenly tells Vanessa something about her childhood that she never knew.

Realizing the damage this has caused, Mrs. Cole tries to have Vanessa admitted for professional treatment. Never one to be outsmarted, Vanessa is soon holding her mother hostage at the Reserve, while Jordan and a local caretaker are drawn into her lies and deception. What follows on that fateful day will leave everyone reeling in shock.

The Reserve takes place in 1936, before the beginning of World War II. A love story and a mystery, it offers us glimpses into the lives of the wealthy and privileged as their world tumbles down around them.

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