The Tumble Inn

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"This powerful novel is not just about its characters. It’s about something more. It evolves into a story about life itself…  As with all of William Loizeaux’s work, this novel is written from the heart, deeply moving and memorable."

    —Robert Bausch, author of A Hole in the Earth

"In this moving novel, Mark Finley, our narrator, attempts to reconcile the pull of a place and the pull of an anguished heart. William Loizeaux is a writer of profound insight and empathy."

    —Ron Rash, author of Serena: A Novel

About the Book

Tired of their high school teaching jobs and discouraged by their failed attempts at conceiving a child, Mark and Fran Finley decide they need a change in their lives. Abruptly, they leave their friends and family in suburban New Jersey to begin anew as innkeepers on a secluded lake in the Adirondack Mountains. There they muddle through their first season at the inn, serving barely edible dinners to guests, stranding themselves in chest-deep snowdrifts, and somehow, miraculously, amid swarms of ravenous blackflies, conceiving a child, a girl they name Nat. Years later, when Mark and Fran are nearing middle age and Nat is a troubled teenager, Mark's life is ripped apart, forever changed, and he must choose between returning to his old home in New Jersey or trying to rebuild what is left of his life and family in the place of his greatest joy and deepest sorrow. The Tumble Inn is a moving drama about home and about the fragility and resilience of love.

The Story Behind The Tumble Inn

by William Loizeaux

During all the years my wife and I have known each other, we have left our urban, academic lives every summer to vacation at an old inn run by a couple in the Adirondack Mountains.  “Quaintly ramshackle” might best describe the inn, with its creaky floorboards, leaky pipes, doors and windows that don’t quite shut, and its tilting porch that looks over a knoll to a wide lake set in graceful hills and low mountains.  Among the founders of the inn in the 1890’s were my wife’s distant relatives.  More recently, her father served for forty years as the Treasurer and President of a small company formed to preserve the inn, nursing along its shaky finances.  For about as many years, her mother was also on the board of directors.  And even I, who have trouble balancing our checkbook, to say nothing of overseeing a business, served a brief stint.  

So this is a place we care about. We’ve done volunteer work there: painting, wallpapering, repairing the dock.  This is where I met my wife’s family, and my family met hers, and where we were married—out on that knoll.  This is where our first daughter was conceived—in a tent on rooty ground beside the lake—and this is where we came and stood again on the knoll in the days after she died.  This is also where we brought our second daughter in the months after she was born, where we spent a large part of her childhood summers, where we hiked with her, where she learned to swim, and where she got her first job—at the inn.  The inn, the lake, and especially those low mountains around it, are for me an emotional setting. 

About a year after my wife and I met and began visiting the inn, one of the innkeepers died in a car accident with her husband at the wheel on one of those dark, winding Adirondack roads.  Everyone associated with the inn was stunned and saddened, and I recall seeing the stricken husband some months later, standing alone on the brow of the knoll, his face turned away toward the lake.  What was he seeing?  What was he remembering?  What happens in the wake of such unimaginable loss?

That event, that image, that setting, and those questions were the germ of The Tumble Inn, though I couldn’t have possibly known it.  In my notebooks from the time, there is barely mention of “the accident.” Yet it stuck with me and popped up persistently in my notebooks over more than twenty years, often with random impressions of the inn, its history, and its locale.  There were notes, too, from which characters would grow (“He can’t even operate a screwdriver.”  “She really wants a baby.”).   And as the years passed, with the death of our first daughter and the birth of our second—and even as I was absorbed by other projects—I was growing and groping my way into these characters and into a story set in a place like the inn on the lake, and with an accident at the center of it.  In my mind, the innkeeping couple became a family with a daughter, the husband having a temperament a bit like mine, the wife and daughter very different from my own. 

But it was the years of bringing up our second daughter, years that roughly correspond with my sporadic writing of this book, that finally gave me the experience and intermittent confidence to move beyond the notes. There is, at least for me, a voice that comes with married life and parenthood that has stretched over time: some ironic detachment and humor, I’d like to think a dash of wisdom, along with those pangs of wonder and love and also of fear that all this messy, beautiful connectedness can come apart.  Getting that voice was key, holding onto it a challenge.  This book is by no means a memoir or an autobiography, yet when I was writing well, it was as if I was feeling for my own family as a husband and father. 

The scope of this book is tightly focused—a small family in a singular place dealing with the life they’ve chosen, as well as events they could never imagine.  Their lives, however, are deeply lived, the issues they face elemental and important.  Love and loss—love in the face of loss—seem to be at the center of my books.   I don’t necessarily intend to write about these things, but they are inevitably what I come around to, and have come around to again in The Tumble Inn.

The Tumble Inn was the grand prize winner at the 2015 New York Book Festival.

More Praise for The Tumble Inn

“Loizeaux’s novel about two high school teachers who pull up stakes to run an inn in the Adirondacks is a crystalline evocation of marriage, family life, and community.” 

   —Dawn Raffel, Reader’s Digest
       One of “10 Great New Books from Small Presses,” fall, 2014

“The narrative is so well written that it might best be read twice, first for story, then again just to savor the prose.”

   —Carolyn Haley, New York Journal of Books

“A beautifully rendered novel…. William Loizeaux…knows his Adirondacks inside and out, turning daily doings into translucent and often lyrical moments, full of details rendered luminous by the clear bright prose in its also perceptive awareness of neighbors, the nuances of seasonal changes, the great lake and the array of birds, brooks, black flies and the like.

   —Sam Coale, The Providence Journal  

“A wonderful novel....  His characters are real, everyday people with some love and nobility, facing changes both sought and unexpected. His writing is spare and clear, the plot basic, startling and rugged, echoing the location of the action. The author's affection for the people and the place are obvious.”

   —Jerry McGovern, The Adirondack Daily Enterprise

"This moving drama, which examines home and the fragility of love, is a powerful and honest work that has an elegant economy in its observations."

  ---2015 New York Book Festival

“Definitely a book that is timely in its message and the way it looks at our existence, The Tumble Inn represents not just a new beginning for us all but a whole new world of possibilities.”

   —Cyrus Webb,

“Loizeaux’s humor and tenderness mark his talent as a sincere writer, one that doesn’t need a lot of drama to project a scene.”

   —Kate Padilla,

“Loizeaux’s portrait of a man and his daughter grappling with [tragedy’s] aftermath is subtle and convincing.  Grief can ravage both memory and our immediate perceptions, and The Tumble Inn rises to the task of showing us that.”

   —John McIntyre,