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The Lake Shore Limited

3.31  ·  Rating details ·  3,534 Ratings  ·  611 Reviews
Four unforgettable characters beckon you into this spellbinding new novel from Sue Miller, the author of 2008’s heralded best seller The Senator’s Wife. First among them is Wilhelmina—Billy—Gertz, small as a child, fiercely independent, powerfully committed to her work as a playwright. The story itself centers on The Lake Shore Limited—a play Billy has written about an ima ...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published April 6th 2010 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2010)
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May 06, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I know what this book is about but I still don't know why I continued to read it. The characters are not very likeable. The story isn't very interesting and when I was done I was glad. In the past I have enjoyed Sue Miller but my opinion is changing. Her characters seem colder and difficult to care about even when you can see that the little kernel that is the base of the story has merit. In this case how different people feel when a "loved one" dies in a big event. Of course all of those people ...more
Ron Charles
Nov 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 9-11
There are several contenders (Anita Shreve, Gail Godwin), but Sue Miller might be the best poster child for the poison condescension bestowed by the term "women's literature." She didn't publish her first novel, "The Good Mother" (1986), until she was in her 40s, but since then she's been prolific and popular (another mark against her), writing about families and marriages, infidelity and divorce -- what we call "literary fiction" when men write about those things. Last year, a grudging review o ...more
Jun 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Back in my dating years, I once heard some pop psychologist say something to this effect: in many early meeting situations, two people show up. You. And your representative.

The point, of course, is that each of us wears masks, and it takes some time for those masks to come off and reveal whom we truly are underneath. Sue Miller – in what I believe is her most ambitious and boldly rendered novel to date – explores precisely this phenomenon, but raises the stakes. Her main character – Billy Gertz,
Oct 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really love Sue Miller's books, but---like an exotic dish or vacation destination--they're best read, and appreciated, at intervals. Miller's style--building motivation and storyline through the accumulation of details--is fascinating, and her characters very real. But the endless small acts and almost desultory conversations, while realistic, take considerable patience. The onus is on the reader to make connections and see where plot and characters are going; it's not spelled out.

This is a bo
Apr 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Barbara by: NY TIMES, BOSTON GLOBE

Sue Miller has previously established her astute perspective of human nature and attendant behaviors in her many books, including The Good Mother and Inventing the Abbotts . She continues with this insightful perception with this novel.

Lake Shore Limited relates to events preceding and post 9-11. The major thrust of the story concerns a play which portrays a terrorist attack on a train, the Lake Shore Limited. It uniquely tells of the author, the characters , friends and many interconnecte
I read this novel gratefully after completing Anna Quindlen's latest novel, which I have not even reviewed yet. I use the word "gratefully" because Miller's approach allowed me to keep an arm's length between the characters and me, a healthy detachment, despite the richness of this novel. Centered around a play and the people connected to it, the novel read a bit like a play, with characters being laid out, dialogue, characters walking off to the right and left. Miller also works with life's man ...more
Heather Mize
This book didn't resonate for me as well as some of Sue Miller's other writing, for example While I was gone.
The book is interesting, but it's largely forgetable. It's told in a "snapshot" form as the ending leaves you with no real closure on most of the characters, except that you can just imply they moved on. There is some closure to the Billy/Sam story. However, the character of Billy is somewhat cold, and while I can understand her phlights at times I just never felt connected enough to her
Aug 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Initially I wasn't sure I'd finish this book, as I found the "play within a book" somewhat tedious. However, as the book progressed, I got caught up in the characters stories and realized something.

Sue Miller's writing, the stories she tells and the characters in them get to places in me that not every book does; it touch me, move me deepy. I FEEL something when I read her books. Often it is the brutal honesty of a character or a scene and their ability to offend or shock, maybe even repulse me
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I've read five other of her books and enjoyed them all to one degree or another - this one was rather boring. I think she was trying to be "literary" and maybe she succeeded but I didn't care for it. The way it was written was complicated - I'm not sure I'm liking these books that keep repeating the same story told by different characters and each time we hear the story again, a little more information is given. For me that just makes the novel confusing, especially when I listen to part of it o ...more
Sep 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Megan and Michael Hollinger, Judy, Molly, Marylynn, oh, all my friends.
I absolutely loved this book. You know how writers say that they write the books they want to read. If I could write fiction, this is the book I would have written because it is exactly the kind of book I want to read. I love the multiple perspectives. I love that people are certain about each other, and absolutely wrong, I love the way the play that one character, Billy, has written is woven into the novel in so many different ways. It is utterly intimate and yet so complicated.

When the traged
Margo Brooks
This novel explores 9/11 through the construct of a play based on a terrorist attack written by an author who lost a boyfriend during 9/11. It is an odd construct, bringing the reader both closer and further from 9/11 than may be appropriate. It works to some degree in that it allows for an exploration of some of the reactions to 9/11 that people had that might have otherwise been difficult to acknowledge. Unfortunately, the writing, like the narrative structure also tends to distance the reader ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
This measured and substantial novel is the capstone of Sue Miller's literary career and clearly removes her from the realm of just "women's fiction" and into a more Jamesian sphere of natural realism. Miller provides penetrating and complex characterizations--it doesn't get any better than this--through robust interior monologues, counterpoint between characters and scenes, overlay, keen perceptions and multiple perspectives, and an artful metaphor between stage/theater and real life. Her quarte ...more
Dec 29, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a difficult one to sum up. I've always liked Sue Miller's books but this one's even more character based and introspective than most. I almost gave up in the first quarter - Billy's a playwright who produces a work based on her personal experiences, the other key characters go to watch it (or act in it), and the author describes the whole play. I didn't think that worked particularly well. But the characterisation thereafter is excellent, and you get tremendously involved in the lives, l ...more
The Lake Shore Limited is a new novel from Sure Miller, author of The Senator's Wife. Four characters are delineated so well the reader thinks she knows them herself. First among them is Wilhelmina, known by family and friends as Billie. She is a playwright and the story centers on her play being presented at off Broadway location. The play revolves around an imagined terrorist bombing of a train as it pulls into Union Station in Chicago. A man is waiting to hear if his estranged wife was on the ...more
Steve Lindahl
Apr 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first Sue Miller novel I've read. It took me awhile to get used to her style, but in the end it was worth it. This book was a reaction to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Billy, the main character, lost her lover, Gus, who was killed when the plane he was on was flown into one of the twin towers. But this wasn't a simple story about losing someone you love in a senseless act of terror. There were problems with Billy and Gus' relationship and those problems left Billy feel ...more
I didn't read this book; I listened to it -- on a very long drive to visit a friend with whom I have a complicated emotional history. The novel works as an audio accompaniment on a very long drive with an uncertain outcome, particularly when your only other listening options are Jesus radio and bad country western. I'm not sure I would have bothered to finish it if I had read it, though.

For one thing, each of Miller's four characters is exhaustively emotionally analytical! I kind of get that thi
Apr 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book, every word of it. There are four main characters. Their stories are fascinating in and of themselves but also in the context of their relationships with each other. The play that parallels their lives, that connects them and separates them, is a character in itself. I learned as much about myself through the interplay of the narrative and the play as the characters learn as they see themselves reflected in art and the process of art.

Often when a book's structure shifts between
Apr 17, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've enjoyed Sue Miller's novels in the past, but the style of this novel is different. In this story, four individuals, each carrying their own personal baggage, are brought together by a two act play called, The Lake Shore Limited. The play takes place at a small theater in Boston. The play hits home on many levels. The main character, Rafe, learns that there has been a terrorist bombing on the train that his wife was a passenger on in Chicago's Union Station. To make matters worst, he was pla ...more
Mary Taitt
May 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I saw this book at the library, I almost didn't pick it up. I was thinking some previous book by this author had left a bad taste in my mouth, but I couldn't remember which. I decided to get it anyway, and I am delighted that I did! It was one of the best books I've read in a long time. It is honest, thought provoking, human, difficult, unhappy and happy and realistic and good.

The entire book revolves around the play, The Lake Shore Limited, which is about a terrorist attack on a train in C
Feb 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was abandoned in the kitchen at work. It looked like something a boring person would like (the cover art, font, and decorative swirls doesn't help), and 9/11 being a part of the story I felt was lame. was free! I gave it a chance.

The Lake Shore Limited is NOT what I expected. I really enjoyed having detailed knowledge of each character and reading their personal perspectives in turns. There were a few times it felt painful (in a good way) reading because the characters' inner
Dec 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un libro che apre il vaso di Pandora facendo emergere un pensiero inconfessabile che noi non ammetteremmo mai, poiché desiderare la morte di qualcuno è un pensiero che appartiene agli angoli più brutti dell’animo umano e nessuno confesserebbe di aver formulato almeno una volta questa speranza a proposito di un proprio congiunto, semplicemente per la voglia di immaginare un’esistenza nuova. Una vita alternativa, insomma, dove, con l’innocua “eliminazione” di qualcuno, si realizzi l’utopia della l ...more
Debbie Robson
Oct 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sue Miller is a fascinating writer. Her novel The World Below is one of my all time favourite books and While I Was Gone has also stayed with me for a completely different reason - the unexpected murder at the heart of the novel. With The Lake Shore Limited - for me as a reader anyway - she has changed tack again.
This book is quieter and very subtle. I love the locations of Boston and Vermont. I really felt that I got a sense of the playwright Billy's life living in the exclusive suburb of Union
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful, quiet, evocative novel told from multiple viewpoints. The viewpoints don’t shift rapidly like most books employing this method, thus The Lake Shore Limited reads like several short stories, but more connected. One immediately interesting device was that instead of this being a novel about 9/11 it’s a novel about a play that’s about 9/11. I found that a very clever twist. Also, I loved the delving into of Billy’s creative process for writing her play.

This is not a loud book. The plot
Victoria Watson
Having read 'The Senator's Wife' a few years ago, I saw this Sue Miller novel and decided to give it a go.

Featuring four main characters, this story is told through their eyes during the run of a play, written by Billy, a 9/11 widow. The difference about Billy, though, is she was preparing to end her relationship with Gus, her younger lover, when he got on a plane on September 11th, 2001. She has never told his older sister, Leslie, this though and she is still in touch with Leslie which is why
Jun 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Leslie,the sister; Rafe, the actor; Billy, the former girlfriend and playwright; and Sam, Leslie's former client: these four characters take turns providing a point of view on the story. Leslie's brother died in a terrorist attack on a train; Billie, his former girlfriend writes a play inspired by the event. How we deal with guilt after the end of a relationship, how we put on masks to show people the feelings we think they want to see - these are the motifs explored. At first I didn't care for ...more
Jun 24, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just finished listening to Sue Miller narrate her own work. Sometimes authors do superbly (Sherman Alexie, Neil Gaiman) and sometimes they flop (Madeleine L'engle.) Miller makes a fair job of it, but maybe she should have taken a cue from Billy, her playwright protagonist, and let an actor do the job. Billy, who seemed to me rather prickly and self-deceiving, gets a sympathetic reading from Miller.

The Lake Shore Limited (name of book, name of play in the book) looks at how loss affects the li
Meegan McCorkle
This is actually more of a 3.5, almost 4. I think what I liked most about The Lake Shore Limited is the idea that someone who has tried to cut love out of her life (partly because of guilt from a failed relationship with a very complicated finish) can still find love, despite herself. Every once in awhile, I really need a sweet, happy ending.

I'm always impressed at how complete Miller's portraits are. You come away with a full sense of the good and bad, strength and weakness in all of the main c
Tanya Merchant
Jun 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the first book I won on Goodreads Giveaways, and I was really excited about it--until I realized that the average review was only 3 stars. I hesitated to read the book because of the lukewarm reviews. For some reason, I decided to pick the book up this week, and I can honestly say that I really enjoyed it. I expected a mediocre read and instead was treated to a compelling read. I loved the characters--I especially loved their flaws. I wept aloud as I read about 9/11--perhaps becau ...more
Jun 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really loved this book. I love Sue Miller, and this one didn't disappoint. I would give it four and a half stars. The title takes its name from the name of a play, written by one of the main characters, a woman named Billy. The play centers on a fictional terrorist attack aboard Chicago's Lake Shore Limited train, which echoes Billy's experience on 9/11 when her boyfriend/lover died on one of the planes. But Billy was feeling ambivalent about her boyfriend before he died, and the ambivalence i ...more
Jun 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this. Beautifully written and structured meditation on love, relationships, and grief. It is told from the different viewpoints of people who are living with the death of a loved one on 9/11 - we hear from his sister first, then his lover/girlfriend who has written a play. The changing perspectives highlight how we never can really know each other, how our perceptions colour reality and our relationships.

I really loved this book, I couldn't put it down even thought it's not r
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Madison Mega-Mara...: #9 The Lake Shore Limited 1 2 Feb 16, 2016 06:04AM  
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Sue Miller is an American novelist and short story writer who has authored a number of best-selling novels. Her duties as a single mother left her with little time to write for many years, and as a result she did not publish her first novel until 1986, after spending almost
More about Sue Miller...

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“We want. When we stop wanting, we feel dead and want to want more. (p.232)” 4 likes
“She guarded herself against it, she supposed, the way she guarded herself against everything difficult or painful—by being loving, by being solicitous.” 0 likes
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