Finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction
One of the New York Times' Ten Best Books of the Year
Named one of the best novels of the year by Time, Washington Post, NPR, Chicago Tribune, Esquire, BBC, and many others
An indelible novel of teenage alienation and adult complacency in an unraveling world.
Pulitzer Prize finalist Lydia Millet’s sublime new novel—her first since the National Book Award long-listed Sweet Lamb of Heaven—follows a group of twelve eerily mature children on a forced vacation with their families at a sprawling lakeside mansion.
Contemptuous of their parents, who pass their days in a stupor of liquor, drugs, and sex, the children feel neglected and suffocated at the same time. When a destructive storm descends on the summer estate, the group’s ringleaders—including Eve, who narrates the story—decide to run away, leading the younger ones on a dangerous foray into the apocalyptic chaos outside.
As the scenes of devastation begin to mimic events in the dog-eared picture Bible carried around by her beloved little brother, Eve devotes herself to keeping him safe from harm.
A Children’s Bible is a prophetic, heartbreaking story of generational divide—and a haunting vision of what awaits us on the far side of Revelation.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Plenty of children daydream about running the world themselves, but there’s a big difference between fantasy and reality. When Evie and her little brother Jack join their parents and several other families at a seaside vacation house, all the parents get drunk or stoned, leaving 12 youngsters to entertain themselves. But when a powerful hurricane approaches, the kids’ mini-society takes on real-world consequences, with Evie assuming a staggering new level of responsibility for her young, curious sibling. Acclaimed novelist Lydia Millet steers this pointed tale from black humor to sheer terror, subtly shaping the children’s frightening journey into a witty allegory about climate change and societal unrest. Millet uses utterly believable teenspeak and the parables of Jack’s beloved children’s Bible to illuminate truths about the world today’s young people have inherited. Unfolding at a mesmerizing pace, this book is chilling, haunting, and beguiling.
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American. Born Boston, grew up in Toronto. Masters degrees in creative writing and environmental policy (!). Has published 13 novels and a story collection, and is best known for best known for "her dark sense of humor, stylistic versatility, and political bent" (Thank you, Wikipedia). Has won, or been nominated for, multiple awards and prizes. Some of her titles include 'George Bush: Dark Prince of Love' (that's George H W Bush, we're talkin' about), 'Love in Infant Monkeys', and 'Mermaids in Paradise' (which features real, by which I mean magic real, mermaids). The only one I've read previously is 'Sweet Lamb of Heaven' (2016), a literary thriller, i.e., Mom and kid flee crazy businessman Dad in Alaska, and end up in a motel in Maine, as you would. Not Bates Motel though; that's in California. As far as I can tell, literary thriller means dull and slow moving compared to the real deal.
It's the near future. A group of upper middle class former College friends rent a large seaside house for the summer for a prolonged reunion, by which I mean a booze, dope and dangerous liaisons fest. They drag along a dozen kids (all theirs) ranging in age from 18 to grade school, take all their electronic devices off them, make them sleep in a Big Brother style communal bedroom in the attic, and tell them to have a good time. What could possibly go wrong? The narrator is 14-year-old Eve, who has sass and vocab to burn, as do most of her immediate peers it must be said (Lord of the Millennial Flies), and also looks out for little bro who is an aspiring wildlife warrior slash worrier. Someone's given him an illustrated children's bible, which is odd because everyone seems to be atheist. This, in turn, makes me wonder whether this is really America at all. Be that as it may, little dude embraces the bible as his guidebook to life, not literally though; he has a remarkably good grip on allegory for an 8-year-old. Cue Category 4 hurricane, general devastation, and flooding, which the kids escape by going on a road trip before all the roads disappear, while the parents stay behind and get dengue fever. All the tropes make an appearance: floods, fire, insects, disease, arks of the Noah rather than covenant variety, yada, yada. Then men with guns arrive and things start getting weird. Take home message: old people ruined the planet by causing global warming and kids must save the day. Sort of.
Precise, at times lyrical prose, that flows beautifully, dragging the reader (this one at least) along through an eco-dystopian plot. Eco-dystopian fiction usually comes off sounding a bit 'preachy' at best, and this one is no exception. Ms Millet's style makes up for it.
I started this book with some trepidation based on reviews I had read, but the prose soon sucked me in. A full star better than Sweet Lamb of Heaven. (Ms Millet's on a roll with the biblical allusions)