She was writing a book, she said—a novel inspired by a murder that took place in the house she and her husband owned.
Right, I thought then. Who in Ann Arbor isn’t planning to write a book?
But Laken, who has an M.F.A. from the U-M, was already publishing short stories and winning prizes. She scored a two-book contract with Harper even before leaving town in 2006 to teach creative writing in Wisconsin.
Sure enough, in her newly released debut novel, Dream House, a shooting in an old Ann Arbor house anchors the action, past and present. There’s not a dull moment as a quartet of main characters ricochet off one another for 350 pages. One killed a man for complex reasons and wants to be done paying the price. Another, a high school shop teacher, seems destined to clean up other people’s messes. A young woman, a math teacher, is on a collision course with the psychic weight of nightmares she doesn’t understand. Her husband, stuck in suspended animation from his college years, dodges “attempts at charity that could end in your own ruin.”