Devoted to money and to ideas of power and political ambition, entrepreneur and former frat boy T. wants to establish himself in real estate in Los Angeles, having spent his life to that point developing his childhood predeliction for charity scams into a highly profitable day-trading regime.
His schemes, funded by both his own capital and that of a collection of rich, bored ignorant men whom he cultivates for their wealth, are interrupted by the unexpected appearance of his wretched mother, who comes to live in his bachelor apartment when his father, her husband of thirty years, suddenly disappears. Fragile and half-crazy, she wreaks havoc with his orderly and upwardly mobile life and new girlfriend. Deciding to find his vanished father to demand he talk to T.’s mother, he discovers his father has left the closet and is working a cocktail lounge in Key West.
In the wake of his mother’s suicide attempt and two other deaths, he finds himself increasingly estranged from the professional world he’s chosen. When his largest project, a retirement development in the middle of the desert and as he juggles his family and social responsibilities T. begins to nurture a curious obsession with vanishing species, whose pending extinction he studies. Soon he’s living a double life, building sprawling, generic subdivisions in the California desert by day and breaking into zoos at night to be near the animals. When the loss of his closest friend and his mother’s dementia leave him isolated he flees to a tropical island, where in the wake of a devastating hurricane he decides to take a river trip into the remote jungle.
Millet’s coruscating wit, psychological acuity, and linguistic acumen are here deployed to thrilling effect as her remarkable empathy for flawed humankind contends with her vision of a world slowly murdering itself—producing Millet’s most knife-edged work yet.
How the Dead Dream is the first book of a trilogy.