Millet’s latest opens with T (How the Dead Dream, 2009, etc.) gone missing on the Monkey River.

Thomas Stern, who prefers to be called T, was in Belize on business. Now he’s been out of touch for weeks. Susan, dedicated assistant to the young mogul, is worried, as is Casey, her paraplegic daughter. Hal Lindley, husband and father, cares little. Hal thinks mostly about Casey’s happiness, at least when he isn’t plagued by angst over the accident that paralyzed her. Drifting and remote, Hal considers himself as “comfortable in the background." He’s soon launched out of his ennui when he discovers shaky evidence Susan is having an affair with Robert, her office’s paralegal. As Hal fumbles for proof, Susan decides to hire an investigator to find T. Hal volunteers, suggesting his profession as an IRS agent provides the experience to trace a person’s whereabouts. Susan is shocked and confused. Casey, platonically devoted to T, thinks her father heroic. In Belize, Hal languishes, missing the “the security of known formulations and structures.” Fleeing the circumstances of his cuckolding, Hal isn’t especially eager to find T. Then he meets a vacationing German couple, Hans and Gretel, who push him into action. Hans, in fact, has military contacts and uses them to arrange a Coast Guard search party. Millet is a gifted writer, often dropping droll and sardonic throw-away lines of surprisingly insightful humor. The narrative moves smartly, and the dialogue is believable, as is Hal’s existential internal monologue. Flailing about attempting to find T, Hal becomes a sympathetic protagonist. While Susan is not deeply imagined, Millet’s narrative of Hal breaking free of an emotional cage is strikingly well done. Millet also deserves recognition for her perceptive treatment of Casey’s disability and how it resonates in the family and in the world.

Literary fiction with a deep vein of wry social commentary.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-393-08171-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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