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The Lake Shore Limited [Paperback]

Sue Miller
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 May 2010
That's what the play was about, she was thinking abruptly. The wish to imagine what life could be, how it could change, if you were unencumbered. Did everyone who was married do this from time to time, imagine an unencumbered life? Three years after the death of her younger brother Gus, Leslie still thinks about what might have been: if Gus hadn't got on that plane on September 11th, if her husband understood the nature of her grief, if she had made different choices. As she sits down to watch The Lake Shore Limited, a disquietingly autobiographical play written by Gus' former girlfriend Billy, she can't help but wonder whether she also holds on to the past, and whether she really knows Billy at all. Meanwhile, Sam, Leslie's divorced friend, finds in the play inescapable echoes of his troubled life and begins to fall for Billy's distinctive, enigmatic beauty. A powerful love story; a mesmerising tale of entanglements, connections and inconsolable losses; a marvellous reflection on the meaning of grace and the uses of sorrow, in life and in art: "The Lake Shore Limited" is Sue Miller at her dazzling best.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (1 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408807335
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408807330
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 498,225 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sue Miller was born in Chicago in 1943. She is the bestselling author of eight previous novels including The Good Mother, While I Was Gone, The Distinguished Guest and Lost in the Forest, the acclaimed memoir The Story of My Father and the Richard & Judy hit The Senator's Wife. She serves as the chair of PEN, New England. Her next novel, The Lake Shore Limited, is due for publication in 2010. Sue Miller lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

(Photo credit: Debi Milligan)

Product Description


`Reading Sue Miller is like watching an invisible painter create a lovely, affecting work in smooth, expert strokes. Hovering close to her characters' smallest musings, Miller yet manages a pace both crisp and capacious...

In Miller's shrewd vision, people don't always play nicely - but the worst turmoil occurs within. Her signature gift is to lay out intricate, discomfiting truths in graceful, clear sentences that never fail to engross and comfort...

The astute New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani has noted, of Miller's oeuvre, that Miller "suggests that people have a primal need to ... figure out who they really feel themselves to be and why they've made the choices that they have." Richly layered, these self-examinations drive "The Lake Shore Limited" to a subtle, piquant, satisfying closing. What seems oddly striking is the hushed quality all that interiority lends a drama generated, this time, by the external noise and chaos of an unforgettable September day.' --The San Francisco Chronicle

`Matthew Arnold said about Wordsworth's poetry that it had no "style," not to dispraise it but to distinguish him from other poets. Like her predecessor, Miller seeks and impressively succeeds in finding what Wordsworth called "a plainer and more emphatic language" to express "essential passions of the heart." Her art is to find those passions and that language' --The Boston Globe

`Miller's exquisite new novel, "The Lake Shore Limited," is so sophisticated and thoughtful that it should either help redeem the term "women's literature" or free her from it once and for all...This is emotional terrain some people won't feel comfortable in, but it's gorgeously drawn and told with stark honesty.' --The Washington Post

`By writing alternating sections of the novel from different characters' points of view, Ms. Miller not only conveys the subjectivity of all experience but also succeeds in creating a haunting chamber-music piece with many different solos.

The result is her most nuanced and unsentimental novel to date. This is a book that does not depend on big, noisy plot developments, topical issues or deliberately withheld secrets to create suspense. Rather, its power grows from Ms. Miller's intimate understanding of her characters... and from her Chekhovian understanding of missed connections, lost opportunities, and closely held memories that mutate slowly over time... Ms. Miller gives us a knowing meditation upon the acts of alchemy and theft that constitute an artist's work: a meditation that sheds light on her own craft, so meticulously showcased in this novel.' --Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Book Description

A moving novel of four lives in the shadow of 9/11, from the author of Richard & Judy bestseller The Senator's Wife --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars POIGNANT AND AFFECTING 6 May 2010
By Gail Cooke TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
When an author reads his or her own work quite often an awareness, an understanding not only of the story but of a character's psycheto enriches the narration. These subtleties of meaning would be difficult for even the best trained actors access but it is all there in the mind of the author who, after all, is the creator of the tale. Such is certainly the case with Sue Miller's narration of her 11th novel THE LAKE SHORE LIMITED.

It is a story hinging on a play penned by Wilhelmina "Billy Gertz, a complex figure who reflects emotions that many of us feel, anger, conflict, a desire for validation. Six years ago Gus, Billy's lover, was killed in a 9/11 plane crash. The couple had been cohabiting but Billy intended to end their relationship. Now, with Gus dead she's unwittingly placed into the position of being thought a tragic figure, a widow - sort of. After this length of time she is more than ready to move on.

Leslie, Gus's sister is unable or unwilling to do the same. She holds on to Billy, presumably either in memory of or to honor Gus, despite her husband's pleas to let go. In Boston, as the opening of Billy's play nears, Leslie issues an invitation she believes helpful - she invites Sam to meet Billy after the performance.

Billy's play concerns the terrorist bombing of a train as it pulls into Chicago's Union Station. A man is waiting to hear whether or not his estranged wife who was on the train managed to escape alive. A parallel between the way Billy waited for news of Gus? Of course. Rafe, the lead actor in the play delivers an astounding performance, only to be filled with regret that he has called upon the impending death of his wife to provide the tears he needs to shed on stage.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, moving, enriching 31 Aug 2010
By fmh
I found this novel to be Sue Miller at her best. There are many interesting levels and layers, her characters are so real, so human and their inner worlds are achingly honest. It deals with loss, guilt, confusion, loneliness, social fears and ultimately coming to terms with one's own reality - however difficult that process should be. If you enjoy Sue Miller, Anita Shreve, Elisabeth Berg - you'll love this book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars EVERYONE HAS PROBLEMS 17 Jan 2013
By Red Rock Bookworm TOP 1000 REVIEWER
More an in depth character study than an "so engrossing I can't stop reading it" novel, Sue Miller's latest offering examines the complexity of relationships with the subjects of loss and guilt taking center stage as the featured players. The four individuals whose intersecting lives are scrutinized are members of a group who have gathered at a small Boston theater to attend the opening of a new play about a terrorist attack on a Chicago bound train called THE LAKE SHORE LIMITED.

Told from the vantage points of `the four", and filled with an abundance of symbolism and metaphoric references the story is in many ways reminiscent of Michael Cunningham's THE HOURS. All of Miller's characters have experienced tragedy and loss of one sort or another and Miller has put a window into the hearts and minds of the characters as they reminisce about past mistakes and fateful decisions. One has an invalid wife who has been cruelly crippled by Lou Gehrig's disease, another has lost her brother in the 9-11 terrorist attacks, a third is a widower with three adult children from whom he is alienated, the fourth is a playwright who is trying to purge her feelings of guilt by committing them to paper (and ultimately to the stage). Each one struggles for resolution and absolution. The struggles are long and at times tedious for the reader.

Ultimately we discover that THE LAKE SHORE LIMITED is a more than appropriate title for this book and an apt metaphor for its contents since every one of the characters depicted therein seems to be carrying an accumulation of enough personal baggage to last a lifetime.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Ultimately a good, sensitive read 29 Oct 2013
By Reddy
I've read most of Sue Miller's books but this wasn't the easiest to get into. It's told from the point of view of four narrators, two women - Leslie and Billy and two men - Rafe and Sam. There are a host of other characters and also a play within the story. This made it difficult to get into but it was worth persevering as it was ultimately a moving and sensitive read.
All the characters have experienced some degree of loss or bereavement in their lives and all, in middle age, are trying to deal with their failures and find some way of moving forward. Billy, a playwright, was in a relationship with Gus - Leslie's younger brother - who was killed in the 9/11 attacks. Her grief isn't straightforward as she was about to leave Gus when he was killed. The play of the book's title is her attempt to deal with this. Rafe, the actor who plays the main role, draws on his own problems to portray the part. And Sam, who lost his wife as a young man and has secretly loved Leslie, finds himself drawn to Billy after Leslie has introduced them.
A good use of 9/11 by Miller - not forced - but used compassionately to show grieving characters living in a grieving nation.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars boring 2 Oct 2011
By Grizzly
Having read lots of extremely positive reviews I was really looking forward to reading this book. But what a disappointment. I felt I had to plod my way through 256 pages. The only gripping passage was when Billy learnt of Gus' death as a victim of 9/11 and had to decide how to deal with it. Apart from that there was no real plot, and the greater part of the book was just boring.
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