OMNIVORES by Lydia Millet


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 Canadian first-novelist Millet debuts with an absurdist carnival lambasting modern American mores--a rollicking farce featuring a present-day damsel in distress, with nary a serious thought in evidence. Seventeen-year-old EstÇe Kraft has always lived as a prisoner of her own home--that home being her father's mansion an hour outside of Los Angeles. With a useless mother who took to her bed immediately after giving birth to EstÇe, and a sadistic father who collects insects and forces EstÇe to eat them when he isn't running a prosperous crematorium somewhere off the estate, home-schooled EstÇe has learned to survive on her own within this decidedly eccentric universe, though she knows nothing of the ``real'' world outside. Biding her time as she helps her father host a fighting- cock exhibition for his horrified employees, or arranges her crazy mother's Betty Boop collection, EstÇe finally manages to escape her father's clutches on her 18th birthday. Her getaway, though, lands her in the arms of Peter Magnus, a coke-snorting real-estate lawyer who imprisons her in turn in his world of get-rich-quick schemes and L.A. pick-up bars. Impregnated by Peter (though she believes the true father to be the shrunken head of a cannibal that's part of Peter's primitive art collection), EstÇe follows him to a newly purchased retired-folks retreat in Florida, where she raises their untameable, clearly cannibalistic son out of doors, trying to avoid an inevitably bloody disaster. After months of weathering her husband's emotional brutality and her son's physical greed, EstÇe finally does learn to consider her own needs as well as theirs--and once she does, her men's entire world is burst asunder. In satirizing American love of money, yuppie greed, and male egocentricity, first-time author Millet takes aim at some very easy targets. Perhaps next time she'll tell us something we don't already know.

Pub Date: May 7th, 1996
ISBN: 1-56512-089-2
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1996


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