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Ghost Lights: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Lydia Millet
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

“Surreal, darkly hilarious and profound.”—San Francisco Chronicle


Ghost Lights stars an IRS bureaucrat named Hal—a man baffled by his wife’s obsession with her young employer, T., and haunted by the accident that paralyzed his daughter, Casey. In a moment of drunken heroism, Hal embarks on a quest to find T.—the protagonist of Lydia Millet’s much-lauded novel How the Dead Dream—who has vanished in a jungle. On his trip to Central America, Hal embroils himself in a surreal tropical adventure, descending into strange and unpredictable terrain (and an unexpected affair with a beguiling German woman).



Ghost Lights is Millet at her best—beautifully written, engaging, full of dead-on insights into the heartbreaking devotion of parenthood and the charismatic oddity of human behavior. The book draws us into a darkly humorous, sometimes off-kilter world where bonds of affection remain a reliable magnetic north. Ghost Lights is a startling, comic, and surprisingly philosophical story.


Editorial Reviews

Review

“Richly imagined.” (Vanity Fair)

“At her best [Millet] exhibits the sweep and Pop-Art lyricism of Don DeLillo, the satiric acerbity of Kurt Vonnegut, the everyday-cum-surrealism harmonics of Haruki Murakami, and the muted-moral outrage of Joy Williams… Strange, alternately quirky, and profound… Millet is operating at a high level in Ghost Lights, and the book provides a fascinating glimpse of what can happen if the self’s rhythms and certainties are shaken. We should be grateful that such an interesting writer has turned her attention to this rich, terrifying subject.” (Josh Emmons - New York Times Book Review)

“Millet… skillfully interweaves the personal and the political, making Hal’s journey both specific and universal.” (Christine DeZelar-Tiedman - Library Journal)

“...surreal, darkly hilarious and profound… With its linguistic and plot pranks and underlying moral complexity, Ghost Lights recalls the laconic, Lacanian novels of Paul Auster. Like Auster, Millet presents a disoriented postmodern hero who becomes a willing but only marginally competent detective in a mystery that requires a series of absurd divagations leading to a life-changing or life-threatening existential inquiry.” (Carolyn Cooke - San Francisco Chronicle)

“[A] whip-smart, funny novel…. A yarn about marriage, fatherhood, and idealism, its every page idiosyncratically entertaining, amusing, and insightful. Millet proves she might have Jonathan Franzen beat at expertly mixing the political and domestic.” (Martha Stewart Whole Living)

“Millet is that rare writer of ideas who can turn a ruminative passage into something deeply personal. She can also be wickedly funny, most often at the expense of the unexamined life.” (Tricia Springstubb - Cleveland Plain Dealer)

About the Author

Lydia Millet is the author of twelve previous books of fiction. Her novel Ghost Lights was a New York Times Notable Book; its sequel Magnificence was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle and Los Angeles Times Awards in fiction; and her story collection Love in Infant Monkeys was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. She lives outside Tucson, Arizona.

Product Details

  • File Size: 381 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (November 12, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005LW5K8O
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #534,753 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book two of the trilogy June 27, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This second book of Millet's trilogy, following the intrepid How the Dead Dream, centers on middle-aged IRS bureaucrat, Hal Lindley, Susan's husband, both who were minor characters in the first book. Susan works for T., the protagonist of book one, the man who is missing in Belize, and presumed dead. You don't have to read the first book to engage with the second, but it adds more background and material on several of the characters (especially T.), and some more dimension and history on the story as a whole.

The only writer I can think of that reminds me of Millet is Paul Auster, with his postmodern, darkly comic and surreal novels of characters earnestly struggling, and yet with an absurd haplessness, too, to comprehend their lives. They suffer from disorienting delusions, so that their self-directed journeys are fevered with mortifications. Millet is somewhat quirkier, even, and without the assembled, careful structure of Auster. She is less antiseptic than Auster, with an undertone of gallows humor.

After Hal comes to the conclusion that Susan is having an affair with her preppy office paralegal, he decides to play the potential hero, offering to travel to Belize to find T. Stern, who has been missing since he went on a boat trip with a guide up the Monkey River. Several issues plague Hal, besides Susan's affair. First, he feels like he is responsible for forcing Susan to suppress her bohemian, free-love spirit that she possessed when they first met in the 60's (it is now 1994, dated by the death of Kurt Cobain).
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a very satisfying read January 7, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is my first book review for Amazon and I am jumping in here only because I so loved this book I wanted to see it get another 5 star rating.Others have delved further into the plot and I suggest that readers forgo the "book review" below as it contains an ending spoiler which I would have hated to have uncovered ahead of time. This story is so beautifully constructed that I am going back now and rereading upon finishing in order to appreciate the interconnected pieces and subtly placed hints that carry one to the amazing ending. This is an intellectual journey of an extremely ordinary person coming to find his extraordinary self. The layers of insight revealed relentlessly as we travel with Hal mirror everything from the horrific state of the world we live in and our means of shutting out the terrible pain of what it means to live, love and lose, to the embracing of one's own mortality and the inevitable dispassionate judgement of no god greater than one's own soul.
Yes the book demands that you slow down and read each sentence more carefully than you might normally do, but what rewards await your diligence! This was a feast and I enjoyed every minute...I laughed out loud on the airplane when I started it, because Hal's insight is wicked funny, and later got up in the middle of the night to finish it...I just had to know where it was going, and I was sorry to have to put it down in the end.
For me it was a relief to come across a read like this, original, revealing, stimulating, challenging, funny...if you like to push up against the boundaries of your comfort zone, and end up feeling like you just went somewhere profound in your armchair then this might be a good one for you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Engrossing Journey May 28, 2012
Format:Hardcover
An I.R.S. agent, Hal, goes looking for his wife's missing boss in a Central American jungle. Why? Because he thinks his wife is having an affair with a paralegal who works in the boss's office? Maybe, maybe for more complicated reasons. The boss, "T." disappeared on a trip to Belize. Hal's wife is frantic. Hal, drunk at a party, announces he will go to Belize and find T. Hal's wife and his paraplegic daughter, are amazed and grateful. Hal is stunned by his own decision, but "what the hell?" During his sojourn in the jungles and resorts and jails and bars and house parties of Belize, Hal reflects on his life, his character, his failures as a husband and father, and life in general. He meets a German couple and their two young sons. "Hans and Gretel" befriend him and, incredibly, volunteer to help him find the missing (dead?) T. Hal ruminates on the German character; determined, efficient, productive, and goes skinny dipping with the beautiful wife. They have sex on the beach, while the husband enlists the aid of the American Coast Guard, and Belize military cadets in a search for T. Hal's reflections on the human condition, his own failings, his newly formed aspirations, are sincere, touching, pathetic, and humorous all at once. Maybe this sounds too cerebral, but Lydia Millet weaves this tale so deftly, with such sly humor and such dead-on pathos, with such terrible insights, and suspense, that the book simply won't be put down. One reviewer here criticized the novel for not having a plot. Wrong. The plot is one man's journey to a new comprehension of his being. It is an engrossing journey.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars " Mid-Life Angst and Misadventures" December 5, 2011
Format:Hardcover
An edgy, side splitting novel of a mild-mannered government bureaucrat who fears that he has been cuckolded by "Robert the Paralegal". Subsequently, he goes through a number of existential crises that lead him to the hotels and jungles of the Carribean, where he is confronted by a pair of "neurotic bohemians" and by a family of "aggressive German tourists" in his search for a venture capitalist gone missing. The scenarios in this book are written tongue-in-cheek, and bring to mind a WASPish Woody Allen/Larry David misadventure. I should add that there is a very dark side as well, but this only adds to the novel's edginess. Highly recommended for a very pleasurable reading experience.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable book
I enjoyed this book a lot. Engaging characters and clever storyline.
Published 2 days ago by mark0
1.0 out of 5 stars I didn't get it and I didn't care
Ever meet one of those mediocre people that never risk anything, but are cynical of everyone else that does? Read more
Published 2 months ago by Rod Raglin
5.0 out of 5 stars prizewinning author does it again
Lydia Millet always amazes me anew with her fantastic prose. This trilogy kept me riveted.
Published 6 months ago by M.V. Reese
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Quite a Sequel
In Lydia's Millet's last novel, How the Dead Dream, we leave the protagonist, T, lost in a jungle in Belize, quite possibly dead. Read more
Published on February 13, 2013 by Brian d'Eon
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed it a lot
I enjoyed this story and Millet's excellent writing. There was enough ambiguity in the characters to keep me guessing, and Millet has some interesting and humorous takes on the... Read more
Published on December 31, 2012 by Daniel Holland
4.0 out of 5 stars Ghost Lights
Highly readable with no gripping passages. Descriptions not original. Ending left me wanting a more satisfying resolution.
Good beach read for next summerr
Published on December 26, 2012 by Trudy Riley
2.0 out of 5 stars once again, she lost me
This is the 2nd novel of Millett's I have read. I did enjoy this one more, for awhile, than the other one, but......somewhere along the was she loses me. Read more
Published on June 12, 2012 by S. Struhall
5.0 out of 5 stars Pulitzer, please
When asked about her close brush with the Pulitzer Prize at the Tucson Festival of Books, Lydia Millet was ironic and self-effacing. Read more
Published on April 4, 2012 by J. Knauss
5.0 out of 5 stars Hitting Her Stride
This sequel, and a second in a trilogy, surpasses the first volume while featuring a minor character in the first book who tracks down the trilogy's main figure in a tropical... Read more
Published on March 4, 2012 by Jonathan A. Weiss
3.0 out of 5 stars about nothing
I guess I've grown too used to good european mysteries that have a plot, characters and an resolution. This book is like a lot of contemporary fiction. Read more
Published on February 27, 2012 by Danae M. Falliers
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More About the Author

Lydia Millet is a novelist and short-story writer known for her dark humor, idiosyncratic characters and language, and strong interest in the relationship between humans and other animals. Born in Boston, she grew up in Toronto and now lives outside Tucson, Arizona with her two children, where she writes and works in wildlife conservation. Sometimes called a "novelist of ideas," Millet won the PEN-USA award for fiction for her early novel My Happy Life (2002); in 2010, her story collection Love in Infant Monkeys was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. In 2008, 2011, and 2012 she published three novels in a critically acclaimed series about extinction and personal loss: How the Dead Dream, Ghost Lights, and Magnificence. June 2014 will see the publication of her first book for young-adult readers, Pills and Starships -- an apocalyptic tale of death contracts and climate change set in the ruins of Hawaii.

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