How the Dead Dream by Lydia Millet | Paperback | Barnes & Noble
How the Dead Dream

How the Dead Dream

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by Lydia Millet
     
 

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As a wealthy, young real-estate developer in Los Angeles, T. lives an isolated life. He has always kept his distance from people — from his doting mother to his crass fraternity brothers — but remains unaware of his loneliness until one night, while driving to Las Vegas, he hits a coyote on the highway.

The experience unnerves him and inspires a

Overview

As a wealthy, young real-estate developer in Los Angeles, T. lives an isolated life. He has always kept his distance from people — from his doting mother to his crass fraternity brothers — but remains unaware of his loneliness until one night, while driving to Las Vegas, he hits a coyote on the highway.

The experience unnerves him and inspires a transformation that leads T. to question his business pursuits for the first time in his life, to take a chance at falling in love, and finally to begin breaking into zoos across the country, where he finds solace in the presence of animals on the brink of extinction.

A beautiful, heart-wrenching tale, How the Dead Dream is also a riveting commentary on inidividualism and community in the modern social landscape and how the lives of people and animals are deeply entwined. Judged by many — including the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post Book World — to be Millet's best work to date, it is, as Time Out New York perfectly states: "This beautiful writer's most ambitious novel yet, a captivating balancing act between full-bodied satire and bighearted insight."

Editorial Reviews

Adelle Waldman
…on the whole How the Dead Dream succeeds, in large part because of Millet's intelligence and storytelling grace. But it's also a function of a talent that was less central to her comic works but that Millet clearly possesses in abundance: a moral eye as sensitive to nuances of character as it is to social causes.
—The New York Times
Ron Charles
[Millet's] best when she makes startlingly odd events seem wholly real. The final act takes T. deep into the jungle for a conclusion that's both terrifying and moving. Yes, there's an argument for environmental protection here, but what's more profound is Millet's understanding of the loneliness and alienation in a world being poisoned to death.
—The Washington Post
Library Journal

T. has always accumulated wealth. As a child, it was through paper routes and bogus charity drives; as a college student, it was through stock-market investments; and as an adult, it is by buying land and developing planned communities. He has never let anyone close enough to derail him from his commitment to accumulate. But the vagaries of love unhinge him: his mother's mental degeneration and subsequent indifference to him, the feelings he has for a dog he rescues from the pound, the love-at-first-sight experience with a woman he meets at a party, and the grief at her sudden loss-all these things affect T. in a powerful and bizarre way. He becomes obsessed with endangered species and routinely breaks into zoos at night to sleep in wolves' and elephants' paddocks. Award-winning author Millet's (Oh Pure and Radiant Heart) story culminates with T. tracking an endangered jaguar and coming face to face with the essence of his own being. With wry, brilliant dialog and insightful existential musings, Millet delves deep into the meaning of humanity's destructive connection to nature and the consequences of the extinction of both animals and love. Absorbing and not to be missed; highly recommended.
—Joy Humphrey

Kirkus Reviews
A story of extinction from Millet (Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, 2005, etc.). As a boy T. collects donations for charities that don't exist and serves as middleman for schoolyard protection rackets. In college he joins a fraternity not for community but for connections, and he remains apart from the debauchery. His brothers mock his monastic tendencies, but they appreciate his clear head and powers of persuasion when, say, frat-party rape victims need to be talked out of pressing charges. As an adult T. is a real estate speculator. He has fulfilled the promise of his youth, which is to say he has achieved the apotheosis of human greed and narcissism. Events conspire, however, to disturb his cool self-interest. His father leaves his mother. His mother descends into dementia. And he hits a coyote with his very expensive car, killing it. T. becomes his mother's caretaker. He tries to communicate with his father. He adopts a dog. He falls in love with a girl named Beth. Transformed by these connections, T. becomes passably human, but he is undone once again by Beth's sudden death. T. sinks into an abyss of loneliness-which deepens as his mother ceases to recognize him-and his experience makes him aware of the loneliness of animals on the brink of extinction. He becomes, if not an activist exactly, then a self-sacrificing witness to these last creatures. Millet's latest doesn't work as a novel-it's exhausting and disappointing. The author seldom deviates from the expository voice, and her characters exist only in outline. She does, however, offer an interesting disputation on the meaning of life, one that posits love as the only useful response to isolation, even as it acknowledges that loss isthe inevitable result of communion. A hymn to love and an elegy for lost species, but not much of a novel.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780156035460
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
09/15/2009
Series:
How the Dead Dream Series, #1
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
637,761
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author


LYDIA MILLET is the author of several previous novels, including Everyone's Pretty and My Happy Life, which won the 2003 PEN Center USA Award for Fiction. She lives in the desert outside Tucson, Arizona.

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