Lost in the Forest
Lost in the Forest is an intimate story of one family’s loss, which resonates with the universal concepts of grief, romance and sex, family dynamics, and painful adolescence. When John Albermarle steps off the curb a split second too soon one afternoon, his family’s universe suddenly shifts, and relationships are irrevocably altered and broken. While minutely examining the ramifications of this particular death, Miller offers insights into the human condition that will resonate with readers of all ages and backgrounds.
The novel opens with the violent death of John Albermarle, second husband of Eva, father to three-year-old Theo, and stepfather to Emily and Daisy. As he steps off the curb while walking with his wife and son in the small Napa Valley town of Saint Helena, John is hit by a car and sent flying into a nearby lamppost. His untimely demise provides the catalyst for subsequent events, plunging all those affected into their own personal crises, revealing the fault lines lying dormant beneath the surface of their relationships and shifting the connections between them. The reader gradually learns, through flashbacks, that John was the most mature, well-balanced person in his family, upon whom all the others depended for a sense of stability and comfort. When the foundation upon which this happiness rests suddenly disappears, the aftershocks are cataclysmic.
Told from three different points of viewEva’s, her former husband Mark’s, and her younger daughter Daisy’sthe family’s history unfolds via flashback. Eva and Mark’s marriage ends when, in a misguided confessional mood, he reveals to her that he recently ended a nearly year-long affair with a local barmaid. Hoping his confession would somehow deepen their relationship, Mark is instead kicked out of the house and out of the marriage. Eva, still in love with Mark and devastated by his betrayal, begins life anew with their two daughters, who see Mark only on occasional weekends, as he becomes immersed in work and an active sexual life.
Eva eventually falls deeply in love with and marries the soft-spoken book publisher John, the antithesis of the sexy, charming bad boy Mark. Emily, and particularly the shy, awkward Daisy, adore John, who is interested in their opinions and makes them feel as if they matter to him. Thus, John gracefully steps into the role that their own father has essentially abdicated, and a new family, with baby Theo, is created.
This family, established after the wreckage of Eva’s first marriage, is blown apart by John’s death, as each member processes the loss differently and alone. Eva retreats into her immense grief, leaving Emily and old family friend Gracie in charge of keeping their daily lives on track. Emily, a bright, popular, well-adjusted teenager, handles grief quickly and gets on with enjoying her senior year in high school. Theo continues to believe his father will return until, finally, standing with his mother at the intersection where his father died, he remembers how his father flew into the air, “like an angel,” and realizes he is not coming back.
It is fourteen-year-old Daisy, however, left completely adrift by her beloved stepfather’s death, who suffers the deepest scars from John’s loss. Tall, gawky, and uncomfortable, Daisy lives in the shadow of her petite, pretty, self-possessed older sister. Entering her first year of high school right before John’s death, she feels cautiously optimistic about her future. She hopefully auditions for chorus, basketball, and the literary magazine, and, knowing that her high school career would be very different from that of her cheerleader sister, she is nonetheless...
(The entire section is 1511 words.)