REVIEW: SWEET LAMB OF HEAVEN, BY LYDIA MILLET

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From the opening pages, we enter the strange, yet curious world of Anna, a young mother who hears voices that nobody else hears…but that stop once her infant daughter Lena starts speaking.

Her cold and sociopathic husband Ned is frightening, and I was so happy that she ran away with Lena, from Alaska to an out-of-the-way motel in Maine.

The motel is fascinating, in that the more or less fulltime residents seem to have been drawn there. By something they all have in common. The motel owner, Don, is like a guru. Or could he be a protector?

When Ned tracks Anna down, he has a very specific purpose in mind: he is running for political office, and wants Anna and Lena to show up for photo ops, etc. But there is something even more sinister going on with Ned, as Anna soon finds out.

Can Anna escape Ned’s grasp? How can she create a new life, free of him, when everything seems to suggest that he and his backers are conspiring to keep her in her place? Is she truly in danger, or is she paranoid?

Sweet Lamb of Heaven was a beautifully written story that kept drawing me in, and then turning me around. Every time I thought I had it all figured out, something new would blindside me. It could be a tale of spiritual mysticism, the abuse of power, and mind control. Or there might be more beneath the surface. What final act must Anna take to free herself from Ned? A five star read.

cropped again 5***

REVIEW: THE DINNER, BY HERMAN KOCH

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Crime and punishment, political aspirations, and family dynamics are the centerpiece for the disturbing novel, The Dinner.

Serge Lohman is a politician, but to his family and especially to his brother, he is a narcissistic control freak. When Serge and his wife Babette plan to meet for dinner at an expensive restaurant, accompanied by his brother Paul and wife Claire, he has an agenda.

At first they believe that they all have the same agenda, but after a long and often interrupted meal, they realize there is more going on.

As the narrator, Paul’s story wends its way into the intricacies of the dinner itself, and we learn a lot about his relationships, his personality disorder, and how he views the world. Both he and Claire seem sympathetic characters for a while…until troubling events crop up, and everything changes.

On the other hand, Serge is one of those characters we all love to hate. Full of himself, and someone who loves to hear himself speak, we might just want to clobber him.

Set in Amsterdam, we learn more than we thought we wanted to know as the agenda for the evening unfolds. Subjects: the two sons of Serge and Paul…and then Serge’s adopted son Beau, whose name doesn’t even come up during the meal.

I was frustrated at times by how the story kept weaving back and forth in time, but these forays into the past did offer up insights into the characters. 4.5 stars.

ratings worms 4-cropped***