A woman embarks on a dazzling new phase in her life after inheriting a sprawling mansion and its vast collection of taxidermy.
Pulitzer Prize finalist Lydia Millet is "one of the most acclaimed novelists of her generation" (Scott Timberg, Los Angeles Times). Salon praised her for writing that is "always flawlessly beautiful, reaching for an experience that precedes language itself." The Village Voice added, "If Kurt Vonnegut were still alive, he would be extremely jealous."
This stunning new novel presents Susan Lindley, a woman adrift after her husband’s death and the dissolution of her family. Embarking on a new phase in her life after inheriting her uncle’s sprawling mansion and its vast collection of taxidermy, Susan decides to restore the neglected, moth-eaten animal mounts, tending to “the fur and feathers, the beaks, the bones and shimmering tails.” Meanwhile an equally derelict human menagerie—including an unfaithful husband and a chorus of eccentric old women—joins her in residence.
In a setting both wondrous and absurd, Susan defends her legacy from freeloading relatives and explores the mansion’s unknown spaces. Funny and heartbreaking, Magnificence explores evolution and extinction, children and parenthood, loss and revelation. The result is the rapturous final act to the critically acclaimed cycle of novels that began with How the Dead Dream.
Suddenly alone after the death of her husband, Susan Lindley is unmoored in Millet's elegant meditation on death and what it means to be alone, even when you're not, in this companion piece to How the Dead Dream and Ghost Lights. When Susan's boss, T., goes missing in a Central American jungle, her husband, Hal, flies down to find him, a "generous" gesture that Susan sees as an "excuse to get away from her" after an "unpleasant discovery, namely her having sex with a co-worker on the floor of her office." But when T. appears alone at the airport, bearing news that Hal has died in a mugging, Susan takes her husband's death as "the punishment for her lifestyle." Susan's prickly, paraplegic adult daughter, Casey, who recently traded college for phone sex work, slips into a grief that "seemed to be shifting to melancholy," which doesn't help Susan assuage her guilty conscience; nor does the closeness of the relationship that begins to bud between Casey and T. But into the mourning comes an unexpected ray of light: Susan's great uncle, whom she only vaguely remembers, wills her an enormous Pasadena estate overrun with taxidermy. Every room is filled with all manner of exotic beasts, divided into "themes." Surprising everyone, including herself, Susan moves in and the taxidermy menagerie becomes a comfort, a way to bring order to a chaotic world, particularly when angry relatives come calling. A dazzling prose stylist, Millet elevates her story beyond that tired tale of a grieving widow struggling to move on, instead exploring grief and love as though they were animals to be stuffed, burrowing in deep and scooping out the innermost layers.
Perhaps I should have bothered to read the first couple installments as this was a continuation of some previous story or rather, they enhance this one, not exactly continue from them. Anyways, I thought this was an exhausting read. There was a whole lot of intense self dialogue that was just exhausting to read. I did enjoy a few passages, but *takes deep breath* I'm beat. I will attempt to read other works by this author though.