The Lake Shore Limited: Book summary and reviews of The Lake Shore Limited by Sue Miller

The Lake Shore Limited

By Sue Miller

The Lake Shore Limited
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2010,
    288 pages.

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Book Summary

Four unforgettable characters beckon you into this spellbinding new novel from Sue Miller, the author of 2008's heralded best seller The Senator’s Wife. First among them is Wilhelmina—Billy—Gertz, small as a child, fiercely independent, powerfully committed to her work as a playwright. The story itself centers on The Lake Shore Limited—a play Billy has written about an imagined terrorist bombing of that train as it pulls into Union Station in Chicago, and about a man waiting to hear the fate of his estranged wife, who is traveling on it. Billy had waited in just such a way on 9/11 to hear whether her lover, Gus, was on one of the planes used in the attack.

The novel moves from the snow-filled woods of Vermont to the rainy brick sidewalks of Boston as the lives of the other characters intersect and interweave with Billy's: Leslie, Gus's sister, still driven by grief years after her brother's death; Rafe, the actor who rises to greatness in a performance inspired by a night of incandescent lovemaking; and Sam, a man irresistibly drawn to Billy after he sees the play that so clearly displays the terrible conflicts and ambivalence of her situation.

How Billy has come to create the play out of these emotions, how it is then created anew on the stage, how the performance itself touches and changes the other characters' lives—these form the thread that binds them all together and drives the novel compulsively forward.

A powerful love story; a mesmerizing tale of entanglements, connections, and inconsolable losses; a marvelous 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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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Miller's take on post-9/11 America is fascinating and perfectly balanced with her writerly meditations on the destructiveness of trauma and loss, and the creation and experience of art." - Publishers Weekly

"Miller raises tantalizing questions about the ethics of love, but the actual drama involving her decent, troubled characters never rises above a simmer." - Kirkus Reviews

"Expertly written, this novel plumbs the dark depths of grief and guilt but emerges into the light of self-forgiveness and freedom. Recommended." - Library Journal

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Bonnie Brody
The Lake Shore LImited
This beautiful and transformative novel is told from the vantage points of four individuals - - Rafe, Billy, Leslie and Sam. Each have experienced severe loss. Billy lost her lover, Gus in the tragedy of 9/11. Billy's lover was Leslie's younger brother. Sam's first wife died of breast cancer when his children were young. Rafe's wife has ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease.

All four characters are connected by one degree of separation and as we are privy to their lives, we are also privy to the play that Billy wrote, also called 'The Lake Shore Limited'. The play gives insights into Billy's relationship with Gus and the way that people may deal with dire tragedy.

In this book by Sue Miller, no one takes a day for granted and waking up in the morning may just be a miracle in itself. Filled with metaphor, insight, and the ambivalence of human nature, this book is a wonderful read.

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Author Information

Sue Miller Author Biography

Photo: Debi Milligan

Sue Miller was born in Chicago in 1943. She is the bestselling author of nine novels including The Good Mother, Inventing the Abbotts, and The Lake Shore Limited, and the acclaimed memoir The Story of My Father. She serves as the chair of PEN, New England. Sue Miller lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

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