I keep reading Lydia Millet, but I don’t get Lydia Millet. Is it bad to admit that I know I’m not picking up everything she’s putting down? Is someone going to take my English degree away?
Last year I read Mermaids in Paradise, a sharp satire with ecological themes. Or at least I think that’s what it was. There was a distinctly unlikable narrator and real, actual mermaids. And a possible murder. And an abrupt twist at the end that turned everything that came before it on its head, though for what purpose, I’m still not entirely sure.
It was super weird, a lot of it went over my head, but still…I kinda liked it, even if I couldn’t explain why. So when I heard Millet had another book coming out this year, this one pitched as a thriller, my curiosity wouldn't allow me to pass it up even though I wasn't sure what to expect.
What I got was, as you might guess, not really a thriller, at least not in any traditional sense. I don't think Millet is capable of writing a traditional anything. I think for most readers, enjoying Sweet Lamb of Heaven will be a matter of adjusting expectations. If you're expecting James Patterson, you will end up scratching your head. This is decidedly not that.
The premise is thriller-y, which is why I think the publisher thought they could get away with mislabeling it. A mom with a young daughter decides to leave her husband, and she and the child go on the lam. But the husband isn't going to let them go easily--he's decided to run for political office, and he needs a smiling daughter and doting wife for the campaign trail. His wife and daughter hide out at a derelict motel filled with odd residents. Over time, the mother's paranoia mounts until it becomes impossible to tell, as the reader, what's really going on. Reality blurs in the distance like a desert mirage.
So even though the two Millet books I've read are vastly different in terms of subject matter, style, and theme, they left me with the same feeling after I turned the last page. They're books that make you go "hmm."