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GHOST LIGHTS by Lydia Millet


by Lydia Millet

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-393-08171-8
Publisher: Norton

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.