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.
The performance of the play has a dramatic effect on the lives of all. Miller's scenario may also have an effect upon us, causing us to reflect upon the losses in our lives and how we have responded to them. THE LAKE SHORE LIMITED is poignant, real, unsettling, and proves once again that Sue Miller is a major literary talent.
- Gail Cooke