So..living in Madison I thought I would like this at least from the local rural flavor aspect. Unfortunately, I didn't really like anything about it. First, I'm was actually kind of annoyed by the setting. This is supposed to be a lake that is close to Milwaukee but also very rural. Amanda goes to nursing school in Madison, but then the hospital in which she works is in Milwaukee. They go on dates to Chicago, Appleton, Fond du Lac and other faraway places (places that would take 2-3 hours driving EACH WAY in modern times going 70 mph on highways). Pre 1919, it would take them all day just to get to one of these locations. I was just annoyed with the way that Schwarz randomly peppered place names. Similarly, later we are told that the lake is close to both Janesville and Baraboo...not quite and especially not in the 1930s!
Then, for the story, I don't know what other people are thinking here but THERE IS NO SUSPENSE. We find out on page 1 that Ruth went in the water with Mattie; clearly Mandy got Ruth out and not Mattie. Yes, there is some wonder in our minds as to whether Mandy was mad enough to let Mattie drown, but there isn't any real big mystery here.
Later, Imogene tells us that her mom found her in the garden. Clearly, the whole town knows that Imogene is adopted; why then does Mary Louise beg Carl not to tell her? Why exactly on the night that Mattie disappears doesn't everyone wonder how/why Imogene came to appear? Isn't this a small town full of gossip? Why are they so incurious here (other than the obvious reason which is that Schwarz needed them to just ignore this all for the story line)?
Besides all of this, the characters were not always consistent. Amanda is the goody-two-shoes, prim and proper girl with an anger problem UNTIL she meets Clement and then she is a ditzy love crazed teenager. Matilda is a free spirit, but she is afraid to leave home and has crazy mood swings when Carl is away during the day. Oh yeah, and their strong mother is also mentally unstable. Huh? What is that all about?
There is also several problems with Arthur. First, he is six years older (almost seven) than Imogene and at least 4 years older than Ruth. I get that men married women who were much younger than them back in the day (and even now to some extent), but Arthur would not just be heading off to college (architectural school) the same time that Imogene graduates from high school. He also would most likely not be at a the dance at the pavilion, given that he was so much older than the rest of them. Unless they were all that much older an Imogene was the youngest by far (which of course doesn't make sense either). Further, there is NO WAY that Ruth didn't know that Arthur had found her mother in the lake. Carl reads the newspaper clippings all the time and Ruth is curious about her mom, she probably had them memorized. Why wouldn't she recognize his name?
I also found the whole potential incest thing to be unnecessary and crude. I saw it coming a mile away and (certainly it is the only reason Arthur is even required to be interested in the girls) it made me cringe. Amanda also had no reason to kill Clement. That was just overkill and vengefulness and there is no reason for Ruth to not be completely appalled by that.
Finally in the whole "wrap up" chapter in the end where we see that everyone lives happily ever after Imogene wants to stay out on the island. BUT SHE HAS ONLY EVER BEEN THERE TWICE. AND SHE DOESN'T KNOW THE TRUTH OF HER BIRTH. SHE HAS NO CONNECTION TO IT.
I just felt like Schwarz couldn't always keep her characters straight and she tried to write the story backwards to give it some mystery and really just overall it was a crappy read and unnecessary and annoying and had no real redeeming points.