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MAGNIFICENCE by Lydia Millet


by Lydia Millet

Pub Date: Nov. 5th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-393-08170-1
Publisher: Norton

Millet’s conclusion of the trilogy that includes How the Dead Dream (2008) and Ghost Lights (2011) draws a detailed map of the healing process of an adulterous wife who suddenly finds herself a widow.

Susan’s husband, Hal, goes to Belize in search of Susan’s employer ,T., a real estate tycoon who has gone missing. (Spoiler alert: Readers of the earlier novels who don’t want to know what happens to T. or Hal, stop reading now.) Hal’s quest is successful: T. returns to Los Angeles. But he’s alone, because Hal has been fatally knifed in a mugging. Susan is both grief- and guilt-stricken. She genuinely loved Hal but has been seeking sex with other men ever since a car accident left their daughter, Casey, a paraplegic. She believes Hal went to Belize largely to recover after discovering her infidelity. Millet’s early chapters insightfully delve into Susan’s internal anguish as she tries to come to grips with the seismic change in her life caused by Hal’s death. Her intense maternal love for Casey, who refuses the role of noble victim, is as prickly and complicated as her mourning; her capacity for experiencing extremes of selflessness and selfishness within a heartbeat is refreshingly human and recognizable. Plot machinations get a little creaky, though once Susan sells her house and coincidentally inherits a mansion full of stuffed animals from a great-uncle she barely remembers. Bringing the mansion back to life and figuring out the secret of her uncle’s legacy take over Susan’s life. 

The deeply honest, beautiful meditations on love, grief and guilt give way to a curlicued comic-romantic mystery complete with a secret basement and assorted eccentrics.