Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lost in the Forest by Sue Miller

After finishing this book, I thought: "Why have I never read Sue Miller before?"  As someone who is inherently interested in families, I found this book a fascinating window inside a reconstituted family.  It is the story of Eva, a divorced woman who is happily remarried with two teenage daughters and a young son from her second marriage.  Her new husband dies in a tragic accident and this dramatically alters the family. In many ways the book is focused most on the story of Daisy, the second daughter, and middle child, who was especially close to John and has trouble showcasing her grief.  She enters adolescence abruptly, operating in a changed family structure, and longing to find a place to be accepted. She looks to her happy, cheerleading older sister and thinks herself ugly in comparison. She doesn't understand why she has grown apart from her sister who she previously felt close to.  She begins an affair with an older family friend that will forever alter her life and lead her to seek support from an unlikely source: her father.  Thus the book is also the story of Mark, a man who messed up his first marriage for reasons beyond his understanding, a man who finds a way to truly be a father by providing guidance to his middle daughter, who is so very in need of love, support and a positive male role model.

Miller is a superb story-teller. But she is also concise. Every word works it into her story. And each chapter seems to begin with a concise straight-forward sentence.  Her dialogue is incredibly realistic and she so easily displays the inner thoughts of her characters.  She portrays grief and the confusing process of adolescence and parenting after divorce in such a  realistic and poignant way.  I look forward to reading more of Miller's works.

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