Meet Billy Gertz: a fiercely independent playwright, whose newest drama imagines the story of a man waiting to hear if his estranged wife has survived a cataclysmic event. As her life touches three other unforgettable characters, Billy’s play—the emotion behind its genesis and its powerful performance—forms the thread that binds them all together. A moving love story and a tale of connection and loss, The Lake Shore Limited is Sue Miller at her dazzling best.
“Haunting. . . . Its power grows from Miller’s intimate understanding of her characters . . . of missed connections, lost opportunities, and closely held memories that mutate slowly over time. . . . Miller gives us a knowing meditation upon the acts of alchemy and theft that constitute an artist’s work: a meditation that sheds light on her own craft, so meticulously showcased in this novel.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Exquisite. . . . Profound. . . . Moving. . . . Gorgeously drawn and told with stark honesty. . . . Sophisticated and thoughtful. . . . The theatrical performance serves as a surprisingly effective stage for Miller’s rueful reflection on what actors we all are—and how unfairly we convict ourselves for the impurity of our affection.”
—The Washington Post
Jennifer Haupt of Psychology Today interviews Sue Miller. “The Lake Shore Limited” explores love, loss, and grief.Link
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In the middle of the night, a complicated, several-stage thud waked him. It was pitch black, and he couldn’t remember where he was for a moment. Then from somewhere below the bed — from the floor — came Lauren’s voice.
“Did I wake you?” she whispered.
“Yes,” he said. “What’s happening?”
She laughed. “I seem to have misplaced my knees, Rafe.”
That was the real beginning. In the morning, she couldn’t walk. He had to carry her downstairs, and after breakfast, he helped her to the car. They drove back to Boston. They were mostly silent. He helped her into a rest stop on the Mass Pike and waited anxiously outside the women’s room. When she emerged and spotted him, she laughed. “You look like a mole-ster, hovering there,” she said, using her own favored pronunciation of the word. But he’d seen her inching along the wall, and when he reached for her, she almost fell into his embrace.
She leaned hard on him all the way back to the car.
After that there were more tests, and then late in the fall the terrible diagnosis. The doctor was kind and patient. He answered everything honestly, and said three or four times how sorry he was. “It is fatal, yes, invariably,” he said, in answer to Lauren’s question. “But there is variability in the length of time it takes. Look at Stephen Hawking.”
They didn’t speak going to the car, starting to drive home. It was a sunny day, a beautiful day. Irrelevant gold and red leaves blew across the street in front of them. She said abruptly, “Look at Stephen Hawking.” “Lauren …” he started.
“No. Shut up. Stephen Hawking is like a … disembodied brain,” she said.
“Stephen Hawking has a mechanical voice. I am … I am my body. I can’t live without a body.” She was sobbing. “I don’t want to live without my body.”
He spotted a parking space, he pulled over and reached across the console and the stick shift to her. He held her awkwardly, spoke to her: he loved her. It would be all right. He was with her. He was aware of the stick shift poking his side. He would stay with her. There was nothing that could happen to her – to them – that would make him love her less.
“And sex?” she whispered. “What about sex?” Her eye makeup was streaked down her face. Her mouth was twisted.
“As long as you want me to make love to you, I will want to make love to you.”
A lie. The first of many.