Authors: Elinor Lipman
“A full-fledged talent, a witty, compassionate chronicler of modern sensibility.… Contemporary as Lipman is in her choice of settings and language, she is also a refreshingly old-fashioned writer who sets up our expectations and then, by golly, delivers.”
The Boston Globe
“A difficult feat … a perfectly pitched light romantic comedy.… The wonderful craft of [Lipman’s] writing makes it all seem effortless.”
Detroit Free Press
“One of those appealing writers, like Mary Wesley or Laurie Colwin, whom women share eagerly with their closest friends, like a really delicious, wonderfully simple recipe.”
“Beguiling.… The spirit of Jane Austen undergirds this witty novel.”
“Among the joys of this novel is the intimate, very honest picture it presents of two contrasting worlds.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Elinor Lipman is the author of the novels
The Dearly Departed, The Ladies’ Man, Isabel’s Bed, The Way Men Act
Then She Found Me
, and a collection of stories,
Into Love and Out Again
. She has taught writing at Hampshire, Simmons, and Smith colleges, and lives with her husband and son in Northampton, Massachusetts.
The Dearly Departed
The Ladies’ Man
The Inn at Lake Devine
The Way Men Act
Then She Found Me
Into Love and Out Again
FIRST VINTAGE CONTEMPORARIES EDITION, MAY
Copyright © 1998 by Elinor Lipman
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright
Conventions. Published in the United States by Vintage Books, a division of
Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House
of Canada Limited, Toronto. Originally published in hardcover in the
United States by Random House, Inc., New York, in 1998.
Vintage Books, Vintage Contemporaries, and colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.
The Library of Congress has cataloged the Random House edition as follows:
The Inn at Lake Devine / Elinor Lipman
For my sister, Deborah Lipman Slobodnik,
and in remembrance of William Austin and vacations past
t was not complicated, and, as my mother pointed out, not even personal: They had a hotel; they didn’t want Jews; we were Jews.
We were nothing to them, a name on an envelope, when it began in 1962 as a response to a blind inquiry my mother had sent out in multiples. We’d been to Cape Cod and Cape Ann, to Old Orchard, Salisbury, and Hampton beaches, to Winnipesaukee and the Finger Lakes. That year she wrote to Vermont, which someone had told her was heaven. She found a lake on the map that was neither too big nor too small, and not too far north. The Vermont Chamber of Commerce listed some twenty accommodations on Lake Devine. She sent the same letter to a dozen cottage colonies and inns inquiring about rates and availability. The others answered with printed rate cards and cordial notes. But one reply was different, typed on textured white stationery below a green pointillist etching of a lakeside hotel. Croquet on the lawn, the Vermont vacation guide had said; rowboats, sundown concerts on Saturday nights; a lifeguard, a dock, a raft, a slide. The Inn’s letter said, “Dear Mrs. Marx: Thank you for your inquiry. Our two-bedroom cabins rent at the weekly rate of sixty-five (U.S.) dollars. We do have a few openings during the period you requested. The Inn at Lake Devine
is a family-owned resort, which has been in continuous operation since 1922. Our guests who feel most comfortable here, and return year after year, are Gentiles. Very truly yours, (Mrs.) Ingrid Berry, Reservations Manager.”
I hadn’t known up to that moment that I had a surname that was recognizably Jewish, or that people named Marx would be unwelcome somewhere in the United States because of it.
I asked if these were Nazis. My mother sighed. I had been wed to the subject since reading, without her permission,
The Diary of a Young Girl
—specifically obsessed by where we, who had no attic, could hide that would be soundproof, and who among our Gentile acquaintances would bring us food under penalty of death.
My mother explained: There were people, unfortunately—for reasons it was hard to explain or understand—who weren’t Nazis but didn’t like Jews. Not that she wanted me to worry, because this was America, not Germany, not Amsterdam. We were safe here, remember? The letter was ignorant, and very bad manners. Someone should give this Mrs. Berry a piece of their mind.
I said, “Can we go?”
“You don’t go where you’re not wanted,” my mother said. “Anyone who could write such a letter doesn’t deserve our business.” She took it back and stuffed it in its envelope with no particular archival care. Two days later, I removed it from the dining-room sideboard to a safer place—my sweater drawer. It fascinated me, the letter’s marriage of good manners and anti-Semitism. Why bother to answer Jews at all if you don’t want them at your hotel?
I tried to picture this Ingrid Berry who had signed neatly in blue ballpoint—the nerve of her insincere “Very truly yours.” Was she old? Young? Married? Was Ingrid a German name? Did she get pleasure from insulting the people she banned from her hotel? And why didn’t my parents respond to this slap in the face? “If you paid us a million dollars, we wouldn’t come to your stupid hotel,” I thought we should say. “If you had a baseball team, would you tell Sandy Koufax he couldn’t pitch for you? Would you let Danny
Kaye rent a room? Tony Curtis? Albert Einstein? Milton Berle? Jesus Christ?”
My mother didn’t show the letter to my father, because she knew that he, like me, would want to jump in the truck and fix the problem. And so I produced it for him with the same flourish my mother had staged for me. “Good God!” he said, struggling with one hand to put on his reading glasses.
I asked him if people who didn’t rent rooms to Jews knew about the concentration camps.
“Everybody knows by now, honey.”
I asked if he thought they had seen
The Diary of Anne Frank
“Probably not,” he said. Then, “You know what I think we should do? Let’s write back and tell her we want one of her stupid cabins.”
I said, “I don’t think they have cabins. It looks like a hotel.”
He embroidered a little drama—not too seriously, but enough to get my mother’s goat: We’d go as the Gentiles! Ed and Audrey Gentile. He’d known a man named Gentile in the navy from somewhere like Delaware or Pennsylvania. It was a real name. People truly had that for a name.
My mother said, “You’ll have to drag me there.”
“You don’t want to see what a place like this is like?”
“And lie for the whole time we’re there?”
“Church,” said my mother. “You can bet the whole place empties out to go to church on Sundays.”
“The Gentile family doesn’t go to church when they’re on vacation,” my father said. “We go regularly on the other fifty weeks, but we pray in the cabin when we’re on vacation.”
“People will know,” she said.