Against the backdrop of Chicago’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, Brown tells the story of Chaya Shadowsky and her younger brother, Asher. Their parents are Jewish immigrants who have settled in rural Wisconsin. When Chaya realizes that her mother has promised her hand in marriage to a man she can hardly bear to look at, she runs away to Chicago. Unbeknown to her, Asher has escaped along with her. They live in poverty. Chaya works day and night rolling cigars until she meets Gregory Stillman, a wealthy socialist (yes, it is an oxymoron). Meanwhile, Asher hangs out at the Exposition, thieving when he can.
Brown writes an interesting novel and if you live in Chicago or know it well, the places Chaya and Asher travel to and the people they meet up with, will be familiar. However, there were parts of The Lake on Fire that I found tedious, and its plot had no surprises.