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How the Dead Dream

A Novel

List Price: $24.00

December 28, 2007 | Hardcover | 5.5 x 8.5, 256 Pages | ISBN 9781593761844
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"…on the whole How the Dead Dream succeeds, in large part because of Millet's intelligence and storytelling grace..." —New York Times

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.

LYDIA MILLET was born in Boston in 1968 and moved to Toronto, Canada with her Egyptologist father and teacher/librarian mother two years later. She received a Master’s in Environmental Policy at Duke University and moved to New York in 1996, where she worked as a fundraiser for the Natural Resources Defense Council. In 1999 she went freelance and moved to Tucson, where she now lives and writes full-time on an isolated spread in the desert. She is the author of Omnivores (Algonquin, 1996), George Bush, Dark Prince of Love (Scribner, 2000), My Happy Life (Henry Holt, 2002; Soft Skull Press 2007), a winner of the 2003 PEN-USA Award for Fiction, Everyone’s Pretty (Soft Skull Press, 2005) and Oh Pure and Radiant Heart (Soft Skull, 2005)


“…on the whole How the Dead Dream succeeds, in large part because of Millet’s intelligence and storytelling grace. But it’s also a function of a talent that was less central to her comic works but that Millet clearly possesses in abundance: a moral eye as sensitive to nuances of character as it is to social causes.” —New York Times

“[Millet’s] best when she makes startlingly odd events seem wholly real. The final act takes T. deep into the jungle for a conclusion that’s both terrifying and moving. Yes, there’s an argument for environmental protection here, but what’s more profound is Millet’s understanding of the loneliness and alienation in a world being poisoned to death.” —Washington Post

“Millet proves no less lyrical, haunting or deliciously absurd in her brilliant sixth novel than in her fifth, the acclaimed Oh Pure & Radiant Heart… At once an involving character study and a stunning meditation on loss—planetary and otherwise—Millet’s latest unfolds like a beautiful, disturbing dream.” —Publishers Weekly Starred Review

“With wry, brilliant dialog and insightful existential musings, Millet delves deep into the meaning of humanity’s destructive connection to nature and the consequences of the extinction of both animals and love. Absorbing and not to be missed; highly recommended.” —Library Journal

“[Millet] offer[s] an interesting disputation on the meaning of life, one that posits love as the only useful response to isolation, even as it acknowledges that loss is the inevitable result of communion. A hymn to love and an elegy for lost species…” —Kirkus

“Lydia Millet, a social novelist with a masters degree in environmental policy, has carved a reputation for herself by exploring difficult topics in edgy, darkly humorous works of fiction.” —Bookmarks Magazine

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