T. is a young Los Angeles real estate developer consumed by power and political ambitions. His orderly, upwardly mobile life is thrown into chaos by the sudden appearance of his nutty mother, who's been deserted by T.'s now out-of-the-closet father. After his mother's suicide attempt and two other deaths, T. finds himself increasingly estranged from his latest project: a retirement community in the middle of the California desert. As he juggles family, business, and social responsibilities, T. begins to nurture a curious obsession with vanishing species. Soon he's living a double life, building sprawling subdivisions by day and breaking into zoos at night to be near the animals. A series of calamities forces T. to a tropical island, where he takes a Conrad-esque journey up a river into the remote jungle. Millet's devastating wit, psychological acuity, and remarkable empathy for flawed humankind contend with her vision of a world slowly murdering itself.
Starred Review. Millet proves no less lyrical, haunting or deliciously absurd in her brilliant sixth novel than in her fifth, the acclaimed Oh Pure & Radiant Heart. As a boy, T. keeps his distance from others, including his loving but vacant parents, preferring to explore his knack for turning a dollar. Before long, he's a wealthy but lonely young real estate developer in L.A. Just after he adopts, on impulse, a dog from the pound, his mother shows up and announces that T.'s father has left her. His mother, increasingly erratic, moves in; meanwhile, T. finally meets and falls in love with Beth, a nice girl who understands him, but a cruel twist of fate soon leaves him alone again. As his mother continues to unravel, T. finds unexpected consolation in endangered animals at the zoo, and he starts breaking into pens after hours to be closer to them. The jungle quest that results, while redolent of Heart of Darkness and Don Quixote, takes readers to a place entirely Millet's own, leavened by very funny asides. At once an involving character study and a stunning meditation on loss--planetary and otherwise--Millet's latest unfolds like a beautiful, disturbing dream. (Jan.)
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January 24, 2008
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