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The Lake Shore Limited [Audiobook, Unabridged] [Audio CD]

Sue Miller
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 6 2010
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.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Review

“Ms. Miller not only conveys the subjectivity of all experience but also succeeds in creating a haunting chamber-music piece with many different solos. . . . 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
 
“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. . . . Gorgeously drawn and told with stark honesty. . . . Intellectual and emotional . . . profound and unsettling. . . . [A] miracle.”
—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
 
“Quintessential Miller, touching on the themes that have animated her fiction for the past quarter-century: the potency of sex; the failure of men and women to understand each other; the hunger for a different life.”
—Ligaya Mishan, The New York Times Book Review
 
“Miller has written gripping novels that shrewdly tap the domestic zeitgeist. Lake Shore, set between snowy Vermont and brick-lined Boston, continues the trend, exploring the fragility of love—and life—in the post-9/11 era. . . . [A] play-within-the-novel adds a layer of complexity to Miller’s latest tale, another graceful, poignant romance that resonates with the times.”
—Joanna Powell, People
 
“With the surety of a master, Miller reveals the intersection of love and fate.”
Good Housekeeping
 
“An ensemble novel about love, loss, and the discontents of middle age.”
Elle (Fiction pick of the month, The Elle’s Lettres Readers Prize)
 
“An ambitious exploration of the interaction between choice and random chance in human relationships. . . . Miller raises tantalizing questions about the ethics of love.”
Kirkus 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
 
“Expertly written, this novel plumbs the dark depths of grief and guilt but emerges into the light of self-forgiveness and freedom. Recommended.”
Jyna Scheeren, Library Journal
 
“As the narrative among four different perspectives, Miller ever so slowly builds to a deeply affecting series of emotional revelations. Among the many heady themes Miller tackles—the joys and burdens of making art, the wish for a different, unencumbered life—is the relationships between men and women that elicit her most piercing insights and elegant turns of phrase. . . . An eloquent, layered meditation on the complexities of the human heart.”
—Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist


From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Sue Miller is the best-selling author of the novels The Senator’s Wife, Lost in the Forest, The World Below, While I Was Gone, The Distinguished Guest, For Love, Family Pictures, and The Good Mother; the story collection Inventing the Abbotts; and the memoir The Story of My Father. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts.


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4.0 out of 5 stars Interconnections May 24 2014
By Samantha TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Years after 9/11, Billy Gertz, a playwright deals with her complicated involvement by creating a play about a train wreck. This novel is about her, her play and three other people involved in her life: Rafe, the star of the play; Leslie, Billy's deceased lover's sister; and Sam, a friend of Leslie's. The characters' lives intersect at the opening of Billy's play and continue throughout the novel. Miller builds each character with finesse, deftly bringing the reader into their private struggles. We come to understand them, what motivates them and ultimately find empathy for them in their vulnerability. Well crafted literature.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars POIGNANT AND AFFECTING May 6 2010
By Gail Cooke TOP 50 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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  102 reviews
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Will be reading more by this author in the future May 6 2010
By Holly - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I read "The Good Mother" years ago and haven't read anything by Sue Miller since that time. Based upon my experience with this novel, I need to go back and read what she has written in between that first novel and this latest one.

In "The Lake Shore Limited", the story is told from the point of view of four main characters. First we have Billy who is a playwright originally from Chicago. There is Leslie, the much older sister of Gus who is the man Billy lived with in Boston and Sam, who is a friend and neighbor of Leslie's. Finally, we have Rafe, the man playing the lead role in the play Billy has written about a man waiting to find out if his wife was on a train that was hit by a terrorist attack. All their stories become interwoven and the reader is allowed to come to know each one of them intimately and what their individual hurts and wounds are.

A beautifully written character study of mature adults (as it relates to age) who are reflecting back upon their lives and revisiting their life paths. How did they end up in the relationships they are in? What do they wish they had done differently over the years? What do they want from this point on? This is not an action-packed or quick, easy novel but one that should be savored along the way. For the older reader who has the perspective of time, this will definitely strike a chord. While sometimes these types of books can feel like navel-gazing, this one manages to be introspective without wallowing. It's more of an honest reflection of what is good and bad without much filter.

If you enjoy Elizabeth Berg, Anne Tyler, and Anna Quindlen, this novel would be a good one to try.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing, well-paced, beautiful May 7 2010
By Mary Lee Moser - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Other reviewers have described the play-within-a-play feature of the plot, which I enjoyed. All in all, I found this book to be engrossing, well-paced, and beautifully written, as I found other Sue Miller books to be. (I personally find it so jarring to see "leisurely" used as an adverb, but I know it's accepted now...)I finished it in 2 days, and am on my way to drop it into a book-loving friend's mailbox. I think Miller presented the 9/11 aspect well, which many writers have failed to do, and I believe a message of the book was this: How DO we use our tragedies and traumas to move our lives forward; how do we transform such events into our own art, into a life fully-lived? By the skillful way she explores all the main characters' actions and interactions, she intriguingly begins to answer these questions. I know some reviewers didn't "like" the characters; I liked them all. I'd love to see a sequel in which Leslie, Rafe, Billy, and/or Sam are featured. All their stories were touching and real to me. One other small complaint: the generic-looking cover art. (If it was supposed to be Billy and Reuben, the proportions were way off!) Mary Lee Moser, author,There and Back: A Journal Companion for Special Needs Parents
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars LIVES FOREVER ALTERED AND CONNECTED... June 15 2010
By Laurel-Rain Snow - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Four lives, connected in some way by an event that changed the world, now continue to intersect over the years afterwards.

Leslie, Billy, Sam, and Rafe--their lives are forever altered.

Leslie is comfortably married to Pierce, but her loving connection to her brother Gus is a truly nurturing relationship. Childless, she has become almost like a mother to Gus, since she is fifteen years older.

Billy, a playwright, was Gus's live-in lover on that fateful day when the planes crashed into the Twin Towers. What nobody knows is that she had already decided to leave Gus, so when he dies as a passenger in one of the planes, she feels like a fraud as she grieves for him.

Sam, an architect, who bought property when Leslie was selling real estate many years before, is now divorced; his first wife had died years before and his children, somewhat distant from him, are grown. Sam has harbored feelings for Leslie for many years.

Rafe, whose wife suffers from Lou Gehrig's disease, is an actor. He is one of the stars in Billy's newest play, called "The Lake Shore Limited"--a play about a terrorist act on a train that leaves people waiting for news of their loved ones, just as many did after 9/11.

These characters all connect at the beginning of Billy's play, and then for weeks and months afterwards, in various ways.

As the story unfolds, we get to view the interior lives of these characters, as sections are devoted to each one in turn. We see what motivates them, what they're worried about, and what they fear. Their worlds are truly explored and we come to know and understand them. Even empathize with them, despite some of their choices.

In the end, I sincerely wanted to know what would happen next with each of them, as we are left at a point in all of their lives where much is unresolved.

There's a moment in the story where Billy, the playwright, is reflecting on the success of her play, now that it's over, and feeling some satisfaction that, in her creation of a terrorist act on a train, she has used similar events (from 9/11 and what happened to Gus), but that, in a way, she has memorialized him in as she would not have been able to do otherwise. She sees this as her homage to him, her "not forgetting" Gus.

Sue Miller has done it again, with her characters, her plot, the multi-layered story that exposes the dark and light side of the human condition...and she has totally captured the attention of this reader. The Lake Shore Limited definitely earned five stars.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dealing with different survivors guilt May 4 2010
By Y. Scott - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This is a story of 4 people who are bound together by the 9/11 tragedy.
Leslie lost her younger brother Gus whom she loved as if he was her son. Her grief made her overly compassionate to Gus's surviving girlfriend Billy. Billy, however has a secret survivor guilt. She no longer loved Gus, but he was killed before Billy could tell him. Billy, a playwright, has written a new play, and Leslie comes to see the play planning to introduce her friend Sam to Billy. Her intention is to give Billy a permission to love someone else. Leslie is shocked when she saw Billy's play because it reveals something about their relationship. Rafe, the actor who plays the main character of Billy's play has his own tragedy at home. And Sam has his own loss, too.

You may not like The Lake Shore Limited if you need likable characters. There's also no suspense. However, her writing is superb and her character study is as good as usual. This book is not Miller's best, but still a compelling read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'll be chewing on this for weeks Dec 25 2010
By Barb M - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
One of the things I love about Sue Miller's books are that they reach deeply into the characters and they all speak to me. Perhaps those who didn't like this book and felt it was "tedious" don't understand that it isn't supposed to be an action book, but is built around feelings. To me, it was a poignant book about events or people that can elicit seemingly contradictory emotions, and how we, as humans, deal with those emotions. It isn't a frivolous book; I found I was digging deep inside myself, shifting from one role to another as her voice moved among the major characters. As my title says - I'll be chewing on it, mulling it over, for weeks to come. For me that's a GOOD thing. If you want a book for quick entertainment, that you can then just put down and forget, I wouldn't recommend any of Miller's books. What I like best about them is that the protagonists are real people, in potentially real situations, leaving me to contemplate how I would respond in similar circumstances.
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