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.
Eva, a divorced and happily remarried mother of three, runs a small bookstore in a town north of San Francisco. When her second husband, John, is killed in a car accident, her family’s fragile peace is once again overtaken by loss. Emily, the eldest, must grapple with newfound independence and responsibility. Theo, the youngest, can only begin to fathom his father’s death. But for Daisy, the middle child, John’s absence opens up a world of bewilderment, exposing her at the onset of adolescence to the chaos and instability that hover just beyond the safety of parental love. In her sorrow, Daisy embarks on a harrowing sexual odyssey, a journey that will cast her even farther out onto the harsh promontory of adulthood and lost hope.
With astonishing sensuality and immediacy, Lost in the Forest moves through the most intimate realms of domestic life, from grief and sex to adolescence and marriage. It is a stunning, kaleidoscopic evocation of a family in crisis, written with delicacy and masterful care. For her lifelong fans and those just discovering Sue Miller for the first time, here is a rich and gorgeously layered tale of a family breaking apart and coming back together again: Sue Miller at her inimitable best.
“As in the work of Jane Austen … Sue Miller’s is genuinely adult fiction”
— Chicago Tribune
“Miller writes with tremendous subtlety and perception”
— Daily Mail
“Sue Miller brings unusual skill in the exploration of women’s hopes and regrets.The careful build-up of detail, and an acute understanding of all the facts and feelings which lie behind disguises, make this a sensitive examination of two private lives”
— Sunday Telegraph
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At Eva’s house, there was no one downstairs, but Mark could hear her moving around above him, putting Theo down. He and Daisy went into the living room. Daisy sat down in a big armchair. She leaned back, her legs stretched out in front of her. She slowly heeled her sandals off. “I would hate to be forty-three,” she said abruptly.
He laughed and looked over at her, part woman, part girl. “Say it this way, Daze: ‘I will hate it when I am forty-three.’ Because one thing for certain is that the day is going to come when you too will be forty-three. That is for sure.”
“Yeah, well. You may believe that, but I don’t.”
Mark was restless, moving around the room, picking things up, examining them – the icons of Eva’s life with John. Though some of them he recognized. Some of them she’d had when they were married too: a wooden darning egg, a glass box that held the buttons from the Civil War uniform of a great-great-uncle. He stopped in front of a painting on the wall. It was a small landscape, done with thick luminous smears of paint.
You wanted either to eat it or be in it, he thought.
“The oldest I want to be is about twenty-five,” Daisy said.
“But all the good stuff happens after that,” he said distractedly.
“Oh yeah. Like divorce and betrayal and dying and general wretchedness.”
He looked at her. She had said this casually, sarcastically, but she had said it. Is this what she thought? Is this what his life and Eva’s had made her believe? And John’s too, he supposed, dying the way he did.
He didn’t want to think this. He didn’t want her to think it.
“No,” he said. He wanted to correct this vision. “The good stuff. Like marriage and children and getting really skilled at the work you choose. And choosing the work, too.”
She shifted in her chair, watching him. Her hands were laced together across her belly. She shrugged and said, “Yeah, and then divorce and betrayal and all that other stuff.”
“Also,” he said, pretending deep thought, “it must be that getting nicer happens a little later too. Probably after twenty-five. Definitely long, long after fourteen.”
“Very funny, Daddy. And I’m fifteen, for those who don’t keep up with these things.”
“Remember? You gave me a bracelet?”
He did remember. Vaguely. He came and sat down across from her. Between them was a low square table with three stacks of books on it. There were also several Matchbox cars. Mark picked one up. A convertible. “Well, how’s fifteen?” he asked.
“You must have noticed, Dad.”
“I guess I haven’t. How is it?”
“Fifteen. Fifteen sucks. I hope I’m never fifteen again.”