“Narrated by the author” is one of my least favorite phrases to hear at the beginning of an audiobook. Sweet Lamb of Heaven by Lydia Millet was no exception. Millet’s reading was flat and she swallowed her words at the end of many sentences.
…But that didn’t keep me from listening to this book and I feel like that says something.
This is the first of Millet’s novels that I’ve read and I had no idea how prolific she was until I started looking at her body of work. Millet is a writer’s writer, but lucky for us, she also knows how to move narration along toward a satisfying ending.
In this novel, in particular, we get the story of Anna and her precocious six-year-old daughter Lena, who live semi-permanently in a small hotel in Maine, where they’ve fled from Anna’s philandering narcissist husband Ned.
Since her baby was born, Anna has heard strange voices, which she attributes to auditory hallucination, though she’s otherwise a totally functional human being. Turns out, she’s not the only voice-hearer who’s been drawn to this Maine hotel. She and Lena get to know the protective owner, Don, as well as the other guests.
This is what drew me to the book, honestly. I was hoping for a good ghost story. I didn’t get it, but I honestly didn’t care because I felt such a sympathy for Anna. I loved that she isn’t all that concerned about her looks. She’s smart and a good mother. She’s an introvert whose daughter is an extrovert who brings other people into their orbit with her charm. I feel like I was a bit the same way when Jake was little.
Anyway, turns out Ned is running for office back in Alaska, but, to win the red state, he needs a family by his side. So, he begins to actively pursue the girls, becoming a threatening hound at Anna’s heels until, finally, he shows up one day, intent on bringing them back with him.
The threat of Ned is the main driver of the story—will he capture them or won’t he? And how? But this isn’t a straight thriller. It’s esoteric and doesn’t move as quickly as, say, a Chevy Stevens novel. But you’re also getting more literary bang for your buck.
Here’s the Slate book review if you’d like to learn more.