Synopses & Reviews
T. is a young real estate developer in Los Angeles with a reverence for money and the institutions of capital. Always restrained and solitary, he has just fallen in love for the first time when his orderly, upwardly mobile life is thrown into chaos by the appearance of his unbalanced mother, who is seeking comfort from her son after his father's sudden desertion.
Struggling to maintain a relationship with his girlfriend and keep his mother on an even keel, T. slowly begins to lose control. In the wake of a series of painful losses, he begins to nurture a curious obsession with rare and vanishing species. Soon he's living a double life, building sprawling subdivisions by day and breaking into zoos at night to be with animals that are the last of their kind a journey that culminates in a Conradian trip deep into a hurricane-ravaged Caribbean jungle.
With devastating wit, psychological acuity and heartbroken empathy for flawed humankind, Millet's latest novel contends with the emotional complexities and spiritual resonances of a dazzling world in decline.
"Millet proves no less lyrical, haunting or deliciously absurd in her brilliant sixth novel than in her fifth, the acclaimed Oh Pure & Radiant Heart. As a boy, T. keeps his distance from others, including his loving but vacant parents, preferring to explore his knack for turning a dollar. Before long, he's a wealthy but lonely young real estate developer in L.A. Just after he adopts, on impulse, a dog from the pound, his mother shows up and announces that T.'s father has left her. His mother, increasingly erratic, moves in; meanwhile, T. finally meets and falls in love with Beth, a nice girl who understands him, but a cruel twist of fate soon leaves him alone again. As his mother continues to unravel, T. finds unexpected consolation in endangered animals at the zoo, and he starts breaking into pens after hours to be closer to them. The jungle quest that results, while redolent of Heart of Darkness and Don Quixote, takes readers to a place entirely Millet's own, leavened by very funny asides. At once an involving character study and a stunning meditation on loss planetary and otherwise Millet's latest unfolds like a beautiful, disturbing dream." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Millet, a writer of encompassing empathy and imaginative lyricism, and a satirist of great wit and heart, takes readers on an intelligently conceived and devastating journey into the heart of extinction." Booklist (starred review)
"How the Dead Dream synthesizes the two styles of Millet's fiction the harrowing and the madcap with a new elegance." Andrew Leland, San Francisco Chronicle
"It's hard... to convey how invigorating Millet's fiction is, how intelligent and thematically rich, how processes of thought are themselves made urgent and lively through the specificity of her observations and sentences that offer startlement, small and large." Catherine Bush, The Globe and Mail
"[T. is] rendered in such complex, fine detail as carefully etched as one of the engravings he studies on the backs of dollar bills that he comes alive, irresistibly sympathetic, both deadpan and deep." Carolyn Kellogg, L.A. Times
"With wry, brilliant dialog and insightful existential musings, Millet delves deep into the meaning of humanity's destructive connection to nature and the consequences of the extinction of both animals and love. Absorbing and not to be missed; highly recommended." Library Journal
"A few years ago, the wacky social novelist Lydia Millet published an essay attacking mainstream environmental organizations for being glib, sentimental, even onanistic. 'Die, Baby Harp Seal!' opened with a witty comparison between a calendar from the Nature Conservancy and a glossy photo spread in Hustler
magazine....The environmental movement, she [wrote], 'has failed to generate a compelling language for itself.'...To avoid 'a long slow slide into obsolescence,' activists will need to develop 'the guts to assault us with the impacts of our own desires.'
That battle cry would seem to call for a pretty heavy-handed novel....But How the Dead Dream surprises in the other direction, largely avoiding the hectoring, lecturing tone of...big-name, environmentally self-conscious novels." Ron Charles, Washington Post Book World (read the entire Washington Post Book World review)
T. is a young Los Angeles real estate developer consumed by power and political ambitions. His orderly, upwardly mobile life is thrown into chaos by the sudden appearance of his nutty mother, whos been deserted by T.s now out-of-the-closet father. After his mothers suicide attempt and two other deaths, T. finds himself increasingly estranged from his latest project: a retirement community in the middle of the California desert. As he juggles family, business, and social responsibilities, T. begins to nurture a curious obsession with vanishing species. Soon hes living a double life, building sprawling subdivisions by day and breaking into zoos at night to be near the animals. A series of calamities forces T. to a tropical island, where he takes a Conrad-esque journey up a river into the remote jungle. Millets devastating wit, psychological acuity, and remarkable empathy for flawed humankind contend with her vision of a world slowly murdering itself.
About the Author
Lydia Millet is the author of several previous novels, including Everyone's Pretty and My Happy Life, which won the 2003 PEN Center USA Award for Fiction. She lives in the desert outside Tucson, Arizona.