Mark's teenage daughters call him from their mother's house, asking for help. When he picks them up, along with his ex-wife's two-year-old son, Theo, they inform him that their stepfather was just hit by a car and killed. Worse, their mother Eva and little brother were with him when it happened.
Eva is crazed with grief, and so the three children live with Mark for a bit while Eva's friend, Gracie, cares for her. The death of John unleashes complicated emotions for Mark. He had liked the man and enjoyed talking with him. Yet, Mark has continued to yearn for Eva throughout her new marriage.
As Eva tries to find her way through her sorrow-filled days, mothering is both nearly impossible and also the anchor holding her to life. She aspires to mourn while tending her children, and hopes not to frighten them with the power of her desolation. As time goes on and whole days pass without tears or rage, Eva finds herself grieving even for her lessening heartache.
Mark almost inevitably becomes attached to Theo, bringing him home along with the girls for visits. He realizes that he loves all three children and that he longs to woo Eva back to him through their children.
As her parents struggle to cope, Daisy, the younger daughter, grows increasingly hostile toward her mother and inaccessible to her father. She acts out, at first in relatively harmless ways. Eventually, though, her actions turn increasingly dangerous and troubling, as a family friend exploits her vulnerability.
Like a character in the fairy tales that the family collaborates on for the benefit of Theo, Daisy is lost. In the family's made-up stories, the lost child finds a way through the forest to the inevitable happy ending. Is there hope for a similar conclusion to this particular chapter in Daisy's life?
In the interests of full disclosure, I admit that I am such a Sue Miller fan that I would --- with great joy --- gladly read her grocery lists. In LOST IN THE FOREST, the author gives us her finest: characters we fully believe in and care about; a plot that draws us in, engrossing readers to the point that they're happy to give up sleep in order to discover what happens; and lyrical writing. As in real life, the conclusion of the tale is not a true ending, leaving readers with the sense that this family's existence is not contained within the book covers and so continues on.
This highly awaited work is a must-read treat for Sue Miller's many fans. And, if you've not read this author before, fair warning: Opening LOST IN THE FOREST may well set you up for a lifelong addiction.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon (Terryms2001@yahoo.com) on January 7, 2011
Lost in the Forest