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Lost in the Forest: A Novel (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – July 25, 2006

3.5 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bestseller Miller (The Good Mother; While I Was Gone; etc.) examines love and betrayal in idyllic wine country in another minutely observed, finely paced exploration of domestic relationships. Idealistic California converts Eva and Mark had a solid marriage until Mark's affair; "bumps in matrimony" is what one of Eva's friends, Gracie, calls such difficulties, and as Miller presents them it's not a question of whether they'll appear but how to deal with them when they do. Some years later, Mark and Eva's two adolescent daughters, Emily and Daisy, are living with Eva and her second husband, John, and their young son, Theo. After John's death in a freak accident, Mark rescues the children from their mother's anguish and, in the process, realizes he is still in love with her. John's death becomes the locus of an elegant and careful investigation of loss—loss of love, loss of innocence—and the conflicts between men and women, parents and children, friends and lovers. As Eva grieves and Mark acknowledges his feelings for her, their quiet younger daughter, 15-year-old Daisy (who "had loved [John] the best!"), enters into an affair with an older man. The backdrop of California vineyards is ideal for the growth and life-cycle themes that Miller so carefully cultivates. As Daisy tries her first glass of wine, has her first taste of sex and experiments with her sense of power and voice, she develops into the heroine of the tale—one of the next generation of women learning to navigate the complex familiar waters of love and domesticity.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Who needs family therapy when one has Sue Miller? Lost in the Forest expertly unfolds to a display of realistic characters and troubled situations, including the sexual initiation (or violation?) of a teenage girl. Yet Daisy’s affair represents only one of many challenges the family faces after John’s death—and there are no easy answers. In understated, powerful prose, Miller moves back and forth in time, a device critics saw as either artful or interruptive. There were divergent views on the explicit sex as well. In this meditation on love, loss, grief, and self-discovery, Miller successfully and painfully examines what divides, and then unites and re-divides, our familial core.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Series: Ballantine Reader's Circle
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (July 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345469593
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345469595
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #719,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
First, this confession: it was the beautiful cover of this book that first caught my eye. If ever a book was served by what lies on its cover, it is this one.

Set in the California wine country in the late 1980's, this Sue Miller novel begins in straightforward fashion with the accidental death of a man, then lets the effects of that death cascade downward to set the entire story in motion. This novel tells of fifteen-year-old Daisy and her extended family, and how the life of Daisy and her relatives is changed with the loss of Daisy's stepfather. Ill-healed wounds from the recent past are split open once more amid a plethora of present-day anguish. Daisy and all around her are, to state it simply, changed.

If Lost In The Forest were merely this, it would be an entirely different type of novel, but as most everyone now knows, Miller turns it into something more. What she accomplishes via Daisy's eventual erotic affair with a man nearly forty years her elder, is to explicitly turn out the most daring, taboo-breaking work of fiction since Lolita half a century ago. I avidly followed along behind Daisy in her descent into what is probably best described, even in 2005, as a plummet from grace.

I really feel uncomfortable saying more than this, because there is much lying under the surface of this work and I am afraid of giving details away when you can gain so much more by discovering this story for yourself. What I will conclude with here is that Miller, in this tale of pain and reaction, coming of age, and the making of mistakes, has given us her best work since Family Pictures, and showed not only courage in the story she created, but in making this barely more than a novella, when so many other writers might have yielded to the temptation to bloat this by an unnecessary couple hundred extra pages.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Regarding Mark's discovery of his 15 yr. old daughter's relationship with a 53 year old man:

Yes, the relationship is repulsive and hard to read about. We are forced to open our eyes to something that we know as a society does happen: many atrractive young girls do become the objects of older mens' fantasies and sexual attentions. We know wihtout even thiking about it that the typical response would be that most fathers blow up and reject their daughters in response to having knowledge of such acts.

Although Miller makes Mark's response different, it is not unrealistic in the context of the rest of the storyline. Mark's response is inextricably linked to his ongoing relationship with Eva. As both Emily and Daisy state toward the end of the book, the children's lives were shaped/marred by their "exclusion" from the intimacy that their parents shared. Because Mark still loved her, his first instincts would have been to protect EVA from the knowledge of what happened to their daughter. He knew fully that with all Eva had lost and suffered that this would crush her.

Fortunately for Daisy, over the years, Mark had come to realize his culpability in being an absent father while married, his replacement by John in both Eva's and Daisy's hearts, and even after the loss of his "replacement" through the death of Daisy's step-father. Daisy would not continue to be lost to him, however; she called out to him by crying in the night -- a few days later, he heard her cry in a different way and came to her aid becoming the father she desperately wanted and needed.

Young girls like Daisy do reach out to older/other men when their fathers are absent or have died.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the first of Miller's books I've read, but it won't be the last. It's a "family" novel but the characterization is complex and the motivations entirely believable. Mark is a vineyard manager in the Napa Valley of northern California who screwed up and lost his wife in a divorce -- a loss he's never reconciled himself to. Especially difficult is the day-to-day separation from his two daughters, whom he adored when they were little but whom he doesn't really understand now that they've entered adolescence. Eva, his ex-wife, remarried to a "nice man" she loved devotedly, but who, as the book opens, has just been killed by a reckless driver in front of his wife and their young son. Meanwhile, Emily, the eldest daughter ("the pretty one"), is about to graduate from high school, looking toward a separate life out in the world, while Daisy, tall and gawky and nerdish, and in love with her stepfather, is now somehow estranged from her perfect sister and is feeling more and more alone -- lost in the forest of growing up. Daisy has her own ways of trying to resolve her loneliness and neediness without admitting to either of them, while Eva tries to come to terms with her husband's death, and Mark begins to wonder if he can gradually regain his lost marriage. But there's far more depth than that, with fully realized supporting players, a not-quite-linear narrative line, and a non-preachy examination of moral issues. A beautiful piece of work.
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Format: Hardcover
IMHO, this is one of Miller's better books. The characters are all ring true, and the tale is told in an interesting way.

Summary, no spoilers:

Eva and Mark had two children, named Emily and Daisy. When the girls were small, Mark has an affair, and the marriage ends.

Eva remarries John ("a nice guy"), and has a son, Theo, with him.

When the book opens, we discover that John has been killed in a car accident (he was a pedestrian), and everyone is feeling enormous grief.

The book tells the story of that grief, and how each character deals with life without John.

Mark now becomes a more vital part of the family's life, Eva deals with loneliness, and Daisy, 14 years old and the most troubled, deals with her grief, her alienation from other kids, and her burgeoning sexuality.

This is a quick read. As usual, Miller is entertaining, and in particular, in this novel she has created a realistic group of characters.

The only reservation I have is with the ending of this book. Miller's last chapter takes place well after the events of the book, and it does resolve a lot of questions as to what happens to the various characters. It is just my opinion, but I would have preferred a different ending. It was a bit of a letdown for me, and I felt like I was meeting different characters than the ones I had come to know intimately throughout the novel.

Despite this, Lost in the Forest is a very good book, and I highly recommended it.
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