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Sweet Lamb of Heaven

2.99  ·  Rating details ·  3,173 ratings  ·  682 reviews
Blending domestic thriller and psychological horror, this compelling page-turner follows a mother fleeing her estranged husband.

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
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published May 3rd 2016 by W. W. Norton Company (first published May 2nd 2016)
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Average rating 2.99  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,173 ratings  ·  682 reviews

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Wendy Darling
A lot of good thrillers came out in 2015, but it looks like 2016 is the year of the obscure, "literary," incredibly dull thriller. I don't mind introspective or slow-moving stories at all, but the characters need to be interesting, and I shouldn't keep thinking of the word "plodding" as I slog through the plot.

Sometimes whole chapters/several chapters would pass by with little to no dialogue, with painfully uninspired prose. Then something disastrous would happen, but so suddenly and out of the
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
I received a copy of Sweet Lamb of Heaven by Lydia Millet from NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to W.W. Norton and Company and to Lydia Millet for the opportunity.

When time and place feel off kilter, they often are. When there is but a vestige of your sanity remaining, you grab onto it with both hands.

Anne feels that imbalance only too well. She and her husband, Ned, have grown apart since the birth of her daughter, Lena. Ned proves to be an absentee husband and father leaving Anne no o
Diane S ☔
Dec 14, 2015 rated it liked it
3.5 3.5 Shortly after her daughter Lena is born, Anna begins hearing voices. Voices that stop when the baby is asleep and then stop for food when Lena herself begins talking. But what are these voices? Signs of mental illness, paranoia, effects of too little sleep? She leaves her husband, who cares little for his wife or child or so it seems. Actually he is a sociopath, with little feeling which will come into play in a bog way. Or is he something worse? She leaves Alaska and finds herself in a ...more
Jan 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Think of Sweet Lamb of Heaven like a Rubik’s cube. Turn it one way and it’s an old-fashioned psychological thriller: Anna flees Alaska with her young child to get out of reach of a handsome, cold and manipulative husband who is running for political office. She and her daughter Lena end up in a strange, run-down Maine motel, waiting for the husband’s next move.


Turn it another way and it’s not that at all. After all, Ned is hardly going to win the husband of the year award, but is he really T
Dec 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016-release
I keep reading Lydia Millet, but I don’t get Lydia Millet. Is it bad to admit that I know I’m not picking up everything she’s putting down? Is someone going to take my English degree away?

Last year I read Mermaids in Paradise, a sharp satire with ecological themes. Or at least I think that’s what it was. There was a distinctly unlikable narrator and real, actual mermaids. And a possible murder. And an abrupt twist at the end that turned everything that came before it on its head, though for what
Justin Evans
May 12, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
There will be spoilers.

There will be complaints about what is surely the ugliest book design of any book I have ever purchased. Yes, that is HORROR MOVIE lettering superimposed on a lamb skin rug. Yes, the text is presented in the most boring font you have ever seen.

There will be one question: what the f***?

Look, Lydia Millet is a great writer, who has written some of the most ambitious American novels of the last two decades--not ambitious in the million-dollar-advance-900-pages-long-ohmygod
Roger Brunyate
Jun 25, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy-surreal
How Will She Pull It Together?

I went to bed last night with only the last chapter of Lydia Millet's novel left to read. Waking early this morning, I lay in bed thinking of the book's two threads—themes that you might have thought incompatible rather than intertwined or twinned—and wondering how on earth she was going to resolve even one of them in a mere 30 pages, let alone pull them both together. It occurred to me that beginning my review at this point might be an excellent way of showing both
switterbug (Betsey)
Jun 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is a book that is ripe for discussion, and liberal with its genres. It’s a captive mystery, domestic drama, horror story, and philosophical quest. It’s a book of ideas, speculative fiction, an inquiry on the nature of the divine, a psychological thriller, the sentience of language, and a subversion of literary conventions. It challenges how narrative assumptions filter reality, illustrating that no singular truths or meanings exist. Millet throws all the tropes outside of the box, enticing ...more
Joachim Stoop
Dec 08, 2016 rated it did not like it
You bad bad book! Go sit in the corner and think about what you've done! Eternally!

Carole (Carole's Random Life)
This review can also be found at

I had some issues with this book. I did enjoy it enough to stick with it until the end. Of course, this book got weirder as I went along so by the time I was ready to be done with it, I was so close to finishing that I just stuck with it. I feel that many readers will enjoy this one more than I did, but by the time I finished, I was bored, confused, and wondered if I was smart enough for this book.

This book tells Anna’s story. She st
1. the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.
Language is the ability to acquire and use complex systems of communication, particularly the human ability to do so, and a language is any specific example of such a system. Human language has the properties of productivity and displacement, and relies entirely on social convention and learning. Its complex structure affords a much wider r
Book Haunt
Anna is mother to 6 year old Lena. They live in a small motel in Maine, in hiding from Anna's husband, Ned. Ned is a handsome and magnetic man. He's also humorless, cold, indifferent and a major philanderer. He didn't want their daughter and he's never shown an iota of interest in the marriage or their daughter, until he decided on a new career in politics. Now he won't stop pursuing them because he wants his picture perfect family in place for his campaign.

Anna, what can I say about Anna. She
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I got through just over half of this book and was just as uninterested in what was going on at that point as I was at the beginning, maybe more, as I didn't have any interest in the "reasons" starting to be revealed. I think the next time the author should consider letting someone else read the audio, because it just never had a sense of urgency or fear or excitement even though the events being described made it feel there should be. I'm a bit surprised this was selected over some of the others ...more
Apr 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: arc-review
ARC for review. EPD: May 3, 2016.

Okaaaaaayyyyy, what the hell did I just finish?

Anna is in a horrendous marriage. Anna has a child, Lena. Anna begins to hear voices, constantly, a cacophony, seemingly having something to do with Lena. Once Lena learns to speak the voices go away. Why?

Anna leaves horrible husband. Horrible husband chases her across the country because he's running for seat in the state senate in Alaska. Horrible husband goes to unthinkable lengths to get them back. Then Anna s
Bill Kupersmith
I realized @ about 1/2 way that this book is not trying to be realistic fiction & that the "not without my daughter" plot is but a skeleton on which to hang either an exploration of the evolution of consciousness or a theological reflection on how God is present in all creation (panentheism). Choose the former if you're an unbeliever. Anna the narrator reminds me of Oedippa Maas in The Crying of Lot 49, but Pynchon's book is much funnier & mercifully shorter. May write a longer review later & pu ...more
May 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is incredible, and Lydia Millett is some kind of genius. Only read this book if you want to think deeply about what it means to be alive on this planet. Plus, the story itself is compelling and thrilling. If I say more, I will give away what it's about. Just read it! Then make your best friend read it so you can talk about it with him/ her. ...more

My Review: (originally published at LitBreak)

Earlier this year, as soon as I heard news of Lydia Millet’s newest novel, I diligently set about reading the last two novels of her recent trilogy (How the Dead Dream, Ghostlights, Magnificence). Even when this author writes a trilogy, it is more like three loosely connected novels, the way some novels are a collection of loosely connected stories. I finished the trilogy satisfied that she had given me three distinct examples of her worldview shown t
AmberBug com*
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016, tob2017
Nope, went too weird too quick. I missed ALL the biblical references steering me into that direction and for someone who has an aversion to biblical stories... this was definitely not the one for me.

I can't say much more about this book without giving stuff away but I was pulled in and reading all the way up to the end. Gah, what a disappointment AND Millet can write!
Jessica Sullivan
Holy. Shit. There is so much I have to say about this incredible book, but on the other hand I don’t want to reveal too much about it because it’s such an utter delight to go into it not knowing what to expect and try to piece it together and figure out what the hell is going on. It’s early, but I think this may end up being one of my favorite books of 2016.

I’ll tell you this much about the actual plot: Anna begins having auditory hallucinations whenever she is in the presence of her infant daug
Briana Nieves
Mar 08, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: giveaways
This book was not for me. First of all, I thought this was going to be a psychological thriller, similar to Gone Girl or The Girl On The Train, that's what the description made it sound like. Unfortunately, it was anything but thrilling. The paragraphs were so boring and the main character didn't seem to have a personality of her own. Her husband was unlikable even though she made it sound like he was charming to others, that was never how I felt about him.

What you also have to know is that the
Jun 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
**** 1/2


I didn't like (get) Infant Monkeys in Love so I was a little nervous about trying Millet again. I figured I could always put it down if I didn't connect with it. Wow, am I glad I gave it a try.

If you need your fiction linear this one isn't for you. But if you can strap on your seat belt and go along for the ride, it will be worth it. It is entirely believable and entirely unbelievable all at the same time.
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
The first person narration of this book was just painfully dull. There was a cheesy husband/stalker plot. I hope there was more to the story than this, but I never got to that point of the book because I abandoned it pretty quickly. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, however I wound up listening to the audiobook borrowed from the library. The author should not have elected to narrate the audiobook herself.
I really devoured this book! I can't say I understand it completely, and I am definitely left feeling somewhat unsettled, but the writing was just amazing and I couldn't pull myself away from the story. I want to go read everything by this author now!

Ratings (1 to 5)
Writing: 5
Plot: 5
Characters: 4
Emotional impact: 5
Overall rating: 4.75
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tob17
Although the focus blurs (not unlike the artful blurring of some letters on the front cover) at times, this was a strange and fascinating read. It's not Hitchcockian like Hannah Pittard's Listen to Me, with the direct constant ratcheting of thriller-tension, but it still has a creeping dread and a spooky strangeness that could, instead of Hitchcockian, perhaps be better called Lynchian or even Kubrickian. Plus, Millet writes not only excellent characters and wonderful plots but equally brillia ...more
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a strange and exhilarating book! Can't quite process it all right now, but I want to read more from this author. Hit me squarely in the wheelhouse. Lots of sharply written sentences in service of a plot that's deliberately hazy and slow to take shape. Foreboding and creepy throughout. Had the feel of an old X-Files episode to me; I found myself wondering at the beginning how, say, Vince Gilligan might have adapted it to the screen back in the day. Interesting that there was an X-Files menti ...more
May 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"...if you're the kind of person who wants to know what's at the end of the universe, what's at the edge of being...and comprehension settles on you that you'll never know, despair can well up."

Don't let your quest for answers drive you through this book. Instead, enjoy the views provided in these pages, the thoughts the words provoke, and revel in the wonder explored by this captivating story. Any requirement for explanation will diminish your experience and undermine the message of the novel.
Jul 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
My lord this became so strange. I didn't understand where it was headed, even to near the end - and that was one reason I liked it. I also have come to trust Lydia Millet, who is wildly talented and clearly nuts (!). The characters of this novel were wonderfully drawn, albeit stereotyped and veering on the cartoonish, but I could see them: Don the hotel host, the two Lindas, Kay, Navid, Will, Lena, Ned, etc. I actually thought "Anna" was an unreliable narrator for most of the novel, but I was ch ...more
Jan 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Okay I'm totally blown away by this story. My mind is going a million miles an hour. This is definitely one of those books that need a second or third reading because there is just too much to break down, chew up, inhale and absorb - like a great classic it's the questions it asks - the ideas it generates and inspires. Loved it! Intrigued by it. Read it! ...more
Jun 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
Think a Paulo Coelho book but more highbrow literary fiction with elements of a thriller
reading is my hustle
i couldn't get enough of these characters. i read somewhere that lydia millet writes novels of ideas. i imagine it is why her star ratings are so varied. her novels beg to be discussed.

review to follow.
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What a strange story. 1 9 Jan 23, 2017 03:19PM  
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Lydia Millet has written twelve works of fiction. She has won awards from PEN Center USA and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and her books have been longlisted for the National Book Award, shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and named as New York Times Notable Books. Her story collection Love in Infant Monkeys was a Pulitzer Prize fina ...more

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