I’ve read my fair share of dystopian fiction, but I have never come across a book outside of the genre that gave me the same signature sense of hopeless terror. At least I hadn’t, until I read Sweet Lamb of Heaven by Lydia Millet. This chilling tale of a woman’s flight from her manipulative husband had me offering a forceful recommendation to anyone I thought would enjoy it.
The premise alone is frightening enough. After spending years in hiding, Anna and her young daughter, Lena, are devastated to learn that their estranged husband and father, Ned, has discovered their campground asylum.
Ned makes no secret of his capacity to monitor and control his wife and daughter’s environment. When Lena goes missing, it’s obvious that he is the one responsible. But who will believe that the up-and-coming “family values”-oriented politician could be capable of kidnapping his own daughter? Anna must play Ned’s twisted game if she wants Lena back in her life.
Thankfully, she isn’t alone. Her neighbors at the campground share eerily similar pasts, and they aren’t about to abandon one of their own.
If you aren’t a literary fiction fan, don’t let the accolade — “Finalist for the Pultizer Prize” — on the cover fool you. Sweet Lamb of Heaven reads smoothly and without pretension.
Although the ending comes more quickly and neatly than I would have preferred, it isn’t the deus ex machina job one expects to be hiding around the corner. Even if Millet’s wrap-up isn’t the one you’re looking for, Sweet Lamb of Heaven is such a nail-biting ride that you won’t notice its shortcomings.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.
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Image Credit: Kenny Louie