cover image Dinosaurs


Lydia Millet. Norton, $26.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-324-02146-9

Millet returns with a brilliant story of survival, one subtler and more effective than the NBA-shortlisted A Children’s Bible (2020). Gil, the decent and well-meaning 40-something protagonist, leaves Manhattan for Phoenix, Ariz., where he moves into a “castle” next to a glass house. The neighbors are a family of four, and Gil, still bruised from a breakup three years earlier and ever uncertain how to find his footing after he inherited his family’s fortune at 18, eventually lets his guard down and becomes friendly with the family next door. They are Arlis, a beautiful psychotherapist; her handsome husband, Ted; Clem, 14, sullen and smart; and the sweet and martial arts–obsessed Tom, 10. There are occasional whiskeyed bro-outs with Ted (“I could ask to borrow a tool,” Ted says to break the ice on his first social call), and Clem seems to appreciate Gil for keeping Tom out of her hair with baseball and other sports, but Gil also becomes close with Arlis in a way that feels symptomatic of a problem in her marriage. A series of little interventions on Gil’s part ratchets up the tension—there’s a coach at Tom’s dojo with a swastika tattoo; a bully on Tom’s bus; and someone illegally shooting birds, whom Gil tracks with night vision goggles. Millet bakes a sense of foreboding into the atmosphere, making the scenes especially fraught. Her character work—notably of the men—is precise and stunning, as she locates their foibles and virtues, and injects a surprisingly moving dose of optimism into Gil and the married couple as they try to endure. This wonderful and dynamic writer is at the top of her game. (Oct.)