Ghost lights : a novel /

Hal is a mild-mannered IRS bureaucrat who suspects that his wife is cheating with her younger, more virile coworker. At a drunken dinner party, Hal volunteers to fly to Belize in search of Susan's employer, T.--the protagonist of Lydia Millet's novel How the Dead Dream--who has vanished in...

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Main Author: Millet, Lydia, 1968-
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York : W.W. Norton & Co., c2011.
Edition: 1st ed.
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Review by Booklist Review

*Starred Review* The always piquant and disquieting Millet follows her stellar story collection, Love in Infant Monkeys (2009), winner of the PEN USA Award, with a riveting continuation of her haunting novel, How the Dead Dream (2008). At the end of that elegiac tale, T., a prodigy turned wealthy real-estate developer, disappears in Belize. Now Susan, T.'s next-in-command, is panicking. Her husband, Hal, an IRS employee deep in a cave of worries about their grown daughter, Casey, who is in a wheelchair for life after an accident, hasn't shown much concern for his wife's missing employer. But after he discovers that Susan is having an affair and that Casey is lying about her work, he conceals his pain and anger and, much to his family's surprise, heads to Belize to search for T. There this straitlaced federal office worker runs amok. He drinks too much, falls under the spell of a golden, athletic German family, and feels weak, useless, and strangely porous. In this land of ecotourism, terrible poverty, and clandestine military horrors, Hal is confronted by a corrupt and violent society and nature's pitiless rule. Millet is darkly comic and neatly lacerating in this fast-moving, psychologically intricate tale, a stunning and devastating late twentieth-century variation on Conrad's Heart of Darkness.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

By his own account, Hal has "become a typical domestic drone, a man wrapped up in the details of his own life and only his own." His IRS job seems redundant, underscoring that Hal is a drab, routine, sad man. His adult daughter is in a wheelchair, and Hal mourns her mobility often. His wife is having an affair, a development that feels unnecessarily exaggerated, as if a stale, mid-life marriage in the wake of their daughter's accident wouldn't have been fodder enough for self-reflection. In an attempt to rattle the circumstances of his existence, Hal volunteers to track down his wife's missing boss (T., of Millet's earlier novel How the Dead Dream), last seen in the jungles of Belize. Most of the book recounts Hal's interior thoughts in prose that lacks the lyricism and beauty Millet is known for. When recalling a gorgeous German woman Hal flirted with at a hotel, we're told, "He liked Gretel. She was nice." As the clues of the disappearance emerge, suspense builds, but Hal never breaks through his emotional distance. Though this passiveness might be at the root of his awkward, battered character, the result keeps the reader at a distance as well. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Hal, a mild-mannered IRS agent, goes to Belize ostensibly in search of his wife's missing employer, a real estate developer who's also the protagonist of Millet's How the Dead Dream. In reality, this out-of-character mission is Hal's excuse to escape perceived betrayals by his wife and daughter. Almost in spite of himself, he enlists the help of a vacationing German couple, as he grows to understand his own responsibility for his family relationships and his place in the world. Like John Updike's Rabbit, Hal finds his odyssey taking unexpected twists and turns, as his wry and somewhat detached narrative voice makes astute observations about marriage, parenthood, and the state of the world. VERDICT Millet, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for the recent Love in Infant Monkeys, skillfully interweaves the personal and the political, making Hal's journey both specific and universal, even when you're never sure where the story is going next. Recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 4/11/11.]-Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Lib., Minneapolis (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

How the Dead Dream, 2009, etc.) gone missing on the Monkey River. Thomas Stern, who prefers to be called T, was in Belize on business. Now he's been out of touch for weeks. Susan, dedicated assistant to the young mogul, is worried, as is Casey, her paraplegic daughter. Hal Lindley, husband and father, cares little. Hal thinks mostly about Casey's happiness, at least when he isn't plagued by angst over the accident that paralyzed her. Drifting and remote, Hal considers himself as "comfortable in the background." He's soon launched out of his ennui when he discovers shaky evidence Susan is having an affair with Robert, her office's paralegal. As Hal fumbles for proof, Susan decides to hire an investigator to find T. Hal volunteers, suggesting his profession as an IRS agent provides the experience to trace a person's whereabouts. Susan is shocked and confused. Casey, platonically devoted to T, thinks her father heroic. In Belize, Hal languishes, missing the "the security of known formulations and structures." Fleeing the circumstances of his cuckolding, Hal isn't especially eager to find T. Then he meets a vacationing German couple, Hans and Gretel, who push him into action. Hans, in fact, has military contacts and uses them to arrange a Coast Guard search party. Millet is a gifted writer, often dropping droll and sardonic throw-away lines of surprisingly insightful humor. The narrative moves smartly, and the dialogue is believable, as is Hal's existential internal monologue. Flailing about attempting to find T, Hal becomes a sympathetic protagonist. While Susan is not deeply imagined, Millet's narrative of Hal breaking free of an emotional cage is strikingly well done. Millet also deserves recognition for her perceptive treatment of Casey's disability and how it resonates in the family and in the world. Literary fiction with a deep vein of wry social commentary.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.