2016 National Book Award Longlist, Fiction

Lydia Millet

Sweet Lamb of Heaven Lydia Millet
Sweet Lamb of Heaven
(W. W. Norton & Company)
ISBN: 978-0393285543

National Book Foundation: Who did you write this book for?
Lydia Millet: For me it’s less a who, because I’m not calculating enough to write for any particular target readership, than a what and why: I wanted to write about language and notions of the divine in our culture. I wanted to write a novel that looked at people’s sense of their ownership of language and their ownership of God in a dramatic context—that explored how the appropriation of God, and the debasement of language, by groups and individuals and even technology can intersect with the collection of wealth and seizing of power. But I wanted to do so in a narrative that was propulsive enough to make those ideas tangible, so I chose a personal story about a couple and a child, and made them the location of that conversation.


Lydia Millet’s chilling new novel is the first-person account of a young mother, Anna, escaping her cold and unfaithful husband, a businessman who’s just launched his first campaign for political office. When Ned chases Anna and their six-year-old daughter from Alaska to Maine, the two go into hiding in a run-down motel on the coast. But the longer they stay, the less the guests in the dingy motel look like typical tourists — and the less Ned resembles a typical candidate. As his pursuit of Anna and their child moves from threatening to criminal, Ned begins to alter his wife’s world in ways she never could have imagined.

About the Author

Lydia Millet is an American novelist and conservationist. Her third novel, My Happy Life, won the 2003 PEN Center USA Award for Fiction, and she has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize as well as a Guggenheim fellow, among other honors. Millet has written books and stories that range from the philosophical to the satirical, on matters including the inventors of the atom bomb, political culture under George H.W. Bush, the discovery of mermaids in a coral reef, and the crises of extinction and climate change. Millet served as a fiction judge for the 2009 National Book Awards. She lives in the desert outside Tucson, Arizona with her two children and works for the Center for Biological Diversity.


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