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Lost in the Forest: A Novel (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – July 25, 2006
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 Daisys affair represents only one of many challenges the family faces after Johns deathand 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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. The men they find available to them may have other objectives, yet seem to fill a void and shape too many young girls lives. I think Sue Miller successfully addressed a very thorny subject on so many levels that a second reading would intensify an understanding of the strength of her words and message to us as a society.
The carefully constructed contentment that Eva eventually finds is shattered with the accidental death of second husband John, a publisher of books. John's death is not only devastating to Eva, but teen-aged daughter Daisy is especially traumatized, being unable to express grief. Finding paths to move beyond this tragedy is the essence of the story. Both Mark and Eva are forced to deal with rekindled interest in each other.
One unexpected direction taken is the seduction of gawky, leggy, but budding beauty, Daisy by an older family friend. For the author, her sexual awakening serves, at least in the short term, as some sort of substitute for the absence of good parenting, whether through divorce or death. One is left wondering why this lengthy affair with the immature Daisy did not destroy many parties rather than seemingly heal.
The end of the book is unremarkable. Life is continuing. Many may feel an absence of development or depth in this relatively short book. As it is, we have a sensitive glimpse at coping and growth in a world that can and will throw most anything our ways.
One of my favorite scenes from this book is the family around the table when Theo, the youngest (about 3-4) requests a story...and each of the others tell a part. This scene reappeared a few times, captured what I think is some of the essence that Miller tries to convey.