For nearly two decades, since the publication of her iconic first novel, The Good Mother, Sue Miller has distinguished herself as one of our most elegant and widely celebrated chroniclers of family life, with a singular gift for laying bare the interior lives of her characters. In each of her novels, Miller has written with exquisite precision about the experience of grace in daily life-the sudden, epiphanic recognition of the extraordinary amid the ordinary-as well as the sharp and unexpected motions of the human heart away from it, toward an unruly netherworld of upheaval and desire. But never before have Miller's powers been keener or more transfixing than they are in Lost in the Forest, a novel set in the vineyards of Northern California that tells the story of a young girl who, in the wake of a tragic accident, seeks solace in a damaging love affair with a much older man.
Bestseller Miller (The Good Mother; While I Was Gone; etc.) examines love and betrayal in idyllic wine country in another minutely observed, finely paced exploration of domestic relationships. Idealistic California converts Eva and Mark had a solid marriage until Mark's affair; "bumps in matrimony" is what one of Eva's friends, Gracie, calls such difficulties, and as Miller presents them it's not a question of whether they'll appear but how to deal with them when they do. Some years later, Mark and Eva's two adolescent daughters, Emily and Daisy, are living with Eva and her second husband, John, and their young son, Theo. After John's death in a freak accident, Mark rescues the children from their mother's anguish and, in the process, realizes he is still in love with her. John's death becomes the locus of an elegant and careful investigation of loss-loss of love, loss of innocence-and the conflicts between men and women, parents and children, friends and lovers. As Eva grieves and Mark acknowledges his feelings for her, their quiet younger daughter, 15-year-old Daisy (who "had loved [John] the best!"), enters into an affair with an older man. The backdrop of California vineyards is ideal for the growth and life-cycle themes that Miller so carefully cultivates. As Daisy tries her first glass of wine, has her first taste of sex and experiments with her sense of power and voice, she develops into the heroine of the tale-one of the next generation of women learning to navigate the complex familiar waters of love and domesticity. Agent, Maxine Groffsky. 150,000 first printing; 11-city author tour. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 25, 2005
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Excerpt from Lost in the Forest by Sue Miller
Emily telephoned, his older daughter. "Can you come get us?" she said. "It's an emergency."
As usual, she didn't greet him, she didn't say hello at the start of the call. And also as usual, this bothered him, he felt a familiar pull of irritation at her voice, her tone. But even as he was listening to her, he was focused on steering the truck around the sharp curves in the narrow road, around several small heaps of rock that had slid down the steep hillside: he was feeling the pleasure he always took in the way the slanted afternoon light played on the yellowed grass and reddened leaves left in the vineyards, in the way the air smelled. He kept his voice neutral as he responded. "When? Now?"
In the background, behind her, Mark could hear someone give a sudden whoop. Festivities, he thought. As ever. Eva's face rose in his mind--his ex-wife. At the least excuse, there was a gathering at her house: to celebrate a birthday--reasonable enough; but also for a project completed, a team victory, a skill accomplished. You learned to ride a bike, you got a party thrown for you.
"Duh. Yes, Dad, now," Emily said. "That's what I mean."
He was headed north on 128 to a small vineyard he thought his crew should harvest tomorrow. He needed to check the grapes. But he could probably get Angel to do it if he had to. His windows were open. The noise of the rushing air made his daughter's voice on the car phone sound distant.
"So?" she said. "Can you?"
If his younger daughter, Daisy, had ever called him because of an emergency, it would have been a child's crisis--not making the basketball team, needing a ride somewhere that her mother or stepfather couldn't provide. But with Emily, this emergency was likely to be at least slightly serious, an emergency in near-adult terms. Terms he might even be sympathetic with.
But she would be taking charge again, and this was something he and his ex-wife had agreed that she should be discouraged--no, freed--from doing so often. He cleared his throat. "Maybe I should talk to your mom," he said. Yes. The approach to take.
"Dad!" she objected. He didn't answer for a long moment, and as if in response to this, her voice had changed when she spoke again. She sounded younger: "Mom can't talk right now. That's why we need you."