cover image A Children’s Bible

A Children’s Bible

Lydia Millet. Norton, $25.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-324-00503-2

Millet follows up Sweet Lamb of Heaven with a lean, ironic allegory of climate change and biblical comeuppance. A group of friends, successful “artsy and educated types,” plan an “offensively long reunion” at a summer house “built by robber barons in the 19th century,” somewhere on the East Coast. They bring along their children, ranging in age from prepubescent to 17, who devise inventive ways to ignore them. With the young teenage narrator, Evie, Millet perfectly captures the blend of indifference and scorn with which the teenagers view their boozy parents, emblematic of humanity’s dithering in the face of environmental catastrophe: “They didn’t do well with long-term warnings. Even medium-term.” After a massive storm interrupts the summer idyll and brings looting and riots to New York and Boston, the parents lose themselves to booze and cocaine and the children flee with a menagerie of rescued animals, seeking refuge at a farmhouse. This lurid section, in which they are besieged by armed raiders searching for food, is shaky, and allusions to biblical tales such as Noah’s Ark and the Ten Commandments feel facile, but the novel regains its footing once parents and children reunite, with the children calling the shots. Millet’s look at intergenerational strife falls short of her best work. (May)