Eula, Idaho, is a cluster of steeples, oak trees, and boxlike homes sandwiched between golden fields and a wide-open sky. It freezes in the winter and bakes in the summer, but the air is so dry that neither extreme gets under your skin. It has never seen a battle, or an earthquake, or a Democrat in City Hall.
Still, life in Eula is anything but simple.
Lina and Connie are single mothers, neighbors in Eula's trailer park. Lina, the daughter of migrant Mexican farm workers, is trying to cope with her angry teenage son Jesús, newly returned after living with wealthy white foster parents. Connie, long abandoned, struggles with her literal reading of Old Testament laws against remarriage, especially when a handsome missionary visits her congregation. The women's younger sons, Enrique and Gene, are misfits whose mutual love of science offers stability and respite from schoolyard cruelties.
Determined to win the statewide science fair, Enrique and Gene devise an experiment involving "lake overturn," a real scientific phenomenon in which deadly gases collect and eventually erupt from a lake's depths. In their quest to discover if Eula could suffer from such an event, the boys come into contact with an odd assortment of locals, including the frail-hearted school principal with grand ambitions, a rich but lonely lawyer who finds love outside his marriage just as his wife is succumbing to cancer, and a woman tortured by a past of abuse and addiction who decides to turn things around by offering herself as a surrogate mother.
With sweeping perspective and a Victorian wealth of character, Lake Overturn exposes small-town America in all its beauty and treachery, sunshine and secrets.