Lost in the Forest, by Sue Miller, is classic domestic fiction. It's the story of a family in Northern California's wine country – Eva, her ex-husband Mark, their daughters Emily and Daisy, and her son Theo by her second husband John. When the book opens, John has just been killed in a car accident. The book follows the rest of the family after John's death, exploring how they cope with his absence and how their relationships with each other change over time.
I'm a fan of Sue Miller. I love literary dissection of family relationships, and this book doesn't disappoint. The characters are complicated and genuine, and Miller expertly relays everyday events in their lives which, while seemingly mundane, are actually quite pivotal. I've heard before that writers should "show, don't tell", and I think Miller is more on the "tell" side of the spectrum; she spends a lot of time explaining how the characters feel and think about each other. Some might see that as a criticism, but I liked it and appreciated her insights. Maybe I am a lazy reader, but it aided my overall understanding of the characters and the book.
I also liked the setting. I am used to Sue Miller's books being set outside Boston (where she lives), and it was a refreshing change to read about a family living in wine country. I used to live in San Francisco and visited that area a number of times, so I could picture the scenery and smell the fragrant, Northern California air and the dry vineyards.
I had a problem with one plot element. There is an inappropriate (and most likely illegal) sexual relationship that takes place and ends basically without consequence. This bothered me. As a parent, I was surprised that Miller would have let the instigator off the hook, at least legally and socially. (He doesn't escape blame in his partner's therapy sessions).
Also, the last chapter fast-forwards about 15 years and checks back in with this family. It's a little bit too neat of a wrap-up, but I did enjoy learning what had happened to everyone.
I'd recommend this book. I enjoyed it a lot, and these characters will stay with me for a long time. Another good one from Sue Miller.