Lake City

Publication Date:

January 2019



Original language and publisher

English (USA) | Counterpoint Press

Territories Handled

World excl. English North America


Debut Novel, Humor

Lake City


“All at once hip, intrepid, and philosophical . . . Kohnstamm’s fresh voice has a millennial groove, the story is engaging and gritty, and there’s an impressive scrutiny of personal and societal ethics.” —Publishers Weekly

“Amusing as snarky social commentary on the world of Seattle have-nots.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Lake City is a darkly funny and extremely relevant debut novel about American inequality and moral authority, featuring a sad-sack antihero who takes way too long to grow up. When he finally does, the results are beautiful, and the book ultimately becomes an elegy for a now-gone Seattle, and a lesson in how the place we’re from never fully lets us go.” —Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See

“Kohnstamm delivers a blistering, clear-eyed, and surefooted debut novel about the perils and pitfalls of misdirected ambition. More than that, Lake City is a hilarious and sneakily incisive examination of the cultural tensions, and widening class divides that simmer on the fringes of an increasingly homogenized Seattle—or San Francisco, or Brooklyn, or Los Angeles, or any other American city in the throes of affluenza and gentrification.” —Jonathan Evison, author of Lawn Boy

“Kohnstamm has written a novel of Pale Male Fail above and below the poverty line, a Dickensian tale of a fledgling philosopher who’s taken flight from trailer parks to Gramercy Park and then . . . had his wings clipped. This is the American Dream cut thin on a grocery store meat slicer, laced with oxy, stolen booze, and an unfinished dissertation. It’s a rotgut to Dom Pérignon rainbow, which is to say: Lake City is a crucial black comedy about the myths of money and happiness, and whether nature, nurture, or AmEx rears a better man.” —Maria Dahvana Headley, New York Times–bestselling author of The Mere Wife

“There are so many reasons to admire Thomas Kohnstamm’s astonishing debut novel: his astute and cutting depiction of urban gentrification, his pitch-perfect evocation of a young man’s endless ricochet between self-aggrandizement and self-hatred, his vision of Seattle’s grungy underside that is so richly related one can almost smell the cedar and cannabis wafting off the pages. And yet, it is Kohnstamm’s innate storytelling verve—his taut, noirish knack for plotting and his ability to make the reader laugh, cringe, worry, and feel for his characters all at once— that makes Lake City truly unputdownable.” —Stefan Merrill Block, author of Oliver Loving: A Novel

“Kohnstamm knowingly illuminates the underbelly of Seattle—a place of beater cars, strip clubs, and a subpar hypermarket—far from the hipsters and gentrifiers. Hilarious as it is cutting, Lake City offers an all-too-insightful critique of clashing classes and misguided ideas of success.” —Shari Goldhagen, author of In Some Other World, Maybe

A good read for fans of Maria Semple, Jess Walter, Gabe Habash, and Sam Lipsyte, and all the writers who’ve applauded this book already. Lake City is an entertaining first novel of misdirected ambition, unchecked gentrification, urban bifurcation and the fine art of deli counter mismanagement.

The setting is Seattle’s Lake City neighborhood during the 2001 holiday season. In the wake of the 9/11 tragedy and at the peak of Seattle’s first wave of tech-boom gentrification―a wave that never quite made it to his neighborhood―Lane Beuche schemes how to win back his wife (and her trust fund). In his childhood bedroom in his mother’s decrepit old house, the idealistic but self-serving striver Lane licks his wounds and hatches a plot.

He discovers a precarious path forward when he is contracted by a wealthy adoptive couple to seduce and sabotage a troubled birth mother from his neighborhood. Lane soon finds himself in a zero-sum game between the families as he straddles two cultures, classes, and worlds. Until finally, with the well-being of the toddler at stake, Lane must choose between wanting to do the right thing (if he could only figure out what that is) and reclaiming the life of privilege he so recently had and, he feels, so richly deserves.