cover image Ghost Lights

Ghost Lights

Lydia Millet. Norton, $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-393-08171-8

By his own account, Hal has “become a typical domestic drone, a man wrapped up in the details of his own life and only his own.” His IRS job seems redundant, underscoring that Hal is a drab, routine, sad man. His adult daughter is in a wheelchair, and Hal mourns her mobility often. His wife is having an affair, a development that feels unnecessarily exaggerated, as if a stale, mid-life marriage in the wake of their daughter’s accident wouldn’t have been fodder enough for self-reflection. In an attempt to rattle the circumstances of his existence, Hal volunteers to track down his wife’s missing boss (T., of Millet’s earlier novel How the Dead Dream), last seen in the jungles of Belize. Most of the book recounts Hal’s interior thoughts in prose that lacks the lyricism and beauty Millet is known for. When recalling a gorgeous German woman Hal flirted with at a hotel, we’re told, “He liked Gretel. She was nice.” As the clues of the disappearance emerge, suspense builds, but Hal never breaks through his emotional distance. Though this passiveness might be at the root of his awkward, battered character, the result keeps the reader at a distance as well. (Oct.)