Millet, Lydia. Magnificence

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  • Author(s): Beck, Evelyn
  • Source:
    Library Journal. Sept 1, 2012, Vol. 137 Issue 14, p93, 2 p.


Booklist Reviews 2012 October #2

*Starred Review* Millet brings her searching, bitterly funny, ecologically attuned trilogy of Los Angeles–based novels (How the Dead Dream, 2008; Ghost Lights, 2011) to a haunting crescendo. This tale of loss and realignment homes in on Susan at the end of a tragic chain of events involving her adult daughter, Casey, ending up in a wheelchair; her boss T.'s disappearance and return; and her husband's death. Susan struggles with grief and guilt and marvels at the ceaseless, atomic whirl of life and the persistence of the past. She is also astringently hilarious on the subject of men and her life as a secret slut. Millet creates a brilliant deus ex machina when her spiky protagonist unexpectedly inherits a vast mansion in Pasadena that is filled with hundreds of stuffed and mounted animals from all around the world. Susan is transformed by her new life as caretaker for this private natural history museum, this library of the dead, which becomes an unlikely haven for T.'s dementia-afflicted mother and others in need of succor and companionship. Millet is extraordinarily agile and powerful here, moving from light to shadow like a stalking lioness as Susan's strange stewardship casts light on extinction and preservation, how we care for others and seek or hide truth, and crimes both intimate and planetary. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

LJ Reviews 2012 June #1

Still mourning the death of her husband, Susan Findley is given a chance at reclamation when she inherits her grand-uncle's enchanting Pasadena, CA, mansion and immediately sets about to restore its taxidermy collection to pristine perfection. Alas, a few less than pristine relations drop in to stay. More eerily incisive work from Pulitzer Prize finalist Millet.

[Page 76]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

LJ Reviews 2012 September #1

Death and damage hover over the tenth work of fiction by Pulitzer Prize finalist Millet (Love in Infant Monkeys), yet it's a refreshingly buoyant and unsentimental tale. After her husband's death, Susan Lindley­ seeks a new direction, which she finds unexpectedly in an inherited mansion full of taxidermied animals. Into that house she eventually welcomes an assortment of people also in need of repair, including an unhappily married man and an elderly woman who needs to be needed. Beyond the activities of this menagerie is a plot about the psychic healing of Susan's daughter, confined to a wheelchair years before as the result of a car accident. The characters all find a kind of salvation, but in very convincing ways. The story develops naturally, an ironic contrast to the artificiality of the preserved animals, and the novel becomes a lyrical meditation on what it takes to survive and evolve. VERDICT Recommended for fans of How the Dead Dream and Ghost Lights, the first two books in this trilogy. Millet's spare but powerful prose also calls to mind the work of J.M. Coetzee. [See Prepub Alert, 5/12/12.]—Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

PW Reviews 2012 September #2

Suddenly alone after the death of her husband, Susan Lindley is unmoored in Millet's elegant meditation on death and what it means to be alone, even when you're not, in this companion piece to How the Dead Dream and Ghost Lights. When Susan's boss, T., goes missing in a Central American jungle, her husband, Hal, flies down to find him, a "generous" gesture that Susan sees as an "excuse to get away from her" after an "unpleasant discovery, namely her having sex with a co-worker on the floor of her office." But when T. appears alone at the airport, bearing news that Hal has died in a mugging, Susan takes her husband's death as "the punishment for her lifestyle." Susan's prickly, paraplegic adult daughter, Casey, who recently traded college for phone sex work, slips into a grief that "seemed to be shifting to melancholy," which doesn't help Susan assuage her guilty conscience; nor does the closeness of the relationship that begins to bud between Casey and T. But into the mourning comes an unexpected ray of light: Susan's great uncle, whom she only vaguely remembers, wills her an enormous Pasadena estate overrun with taxidermy. Every room is filled with all manner of exotic beasts, divided into "themes." Surprising everyone, including herself, Susan moves in and the taxidermy menagerie becomes a comfort, a way to bring order to a chaotic world, particularly when angry relatives come calling. A dazzling prose stylist, Millet elevates her story beyond that tired tale of a grieving widow struggling to move on, instead exploring grief and love as though they were animals to be stuffed, burrowing in deep and scooping out the innermost layers. Agent: Maria Massie, Lippincott Massie McQuilkin. (Nov.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC