Sweet Lamb of Heaven

Lydia Millet. Norton, $25.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-393-28554-3

Pulitzer Prize–finalist Millet’s latest novel (following Mermaids in Paradise) begins with Anna and her six-year-old daughter, Lena, leaving Alaska while on the run from her husband, Ned. The bad news is that sociopathic Ned doesn’t give up so easily: despite years of neglecting Lena and cheating on Anna, he’s got his eyes set on an Alaska state senator seat, and he needs Anna and Lena to fill the roles of loving wife and daughter. Anna and Lena hole up at a shoddy Maine motel, which soon fills up with other seemingly normal folks. But Anna is always on guard, a quality amplified ever since Lena was born and Anna began hearing a voice (which recites Woody Guthrie lyrics, as well as poems, dictionaries, and textbooks). When Ned shows up and threatens Anna, she must figure out a way protect Lena and herself. Anna’s touching relationship with Lena strongly contrasts her dislike of Ned, and Millet weaves a satisfying cat and mouse game between the estranged couple. Her novel reads like top-notch psychological suspense, with an emphasis on the psychological: Anna’s paranoia is smartly given an additional, possibly supernatural dimension with the unknown voice, which becomes an inextricable part of her flight. This is a page-turner from a very talented writer, and the result is a crowd-pleaser. (May)
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