A CHILDREN’S BIBLE, by Lydia Millet, is a smart, new literary novel about environmental issues. The narrator is a teenaged girl named Evie. Evie is spending the summer in a large rental mansion, lakeside. She’s not alone. There are several families sharing this experience. Lots of kids and a bunch of parents who seem to care only for their own pleasure. We quickly learn that the kids are truly left hanging out to dry. Evie has completely taken over the care of her little brother Jack who is toting around a new book one of the “mothers” has given him. It’s a children’s bible and filled with pictures taken from The Good Book including many animals.
Kirkus says,” A group of children are forced to fend for themselves in the face of rising sea levels, worsening storms, and willfully ignorant parents.” That could pretty much sum it up in a nutshell. But there’s so much more.
I see this novel as a modern-day LORD OF THE FLIES with climate change. The kids are stars of the story. The parents are living in a hedonistic mess. The kids are figuring out the world while the parents are busy taking ecstasy and guzzling alcohol. Who’s making sure the kids are fed? Who’s keeping the kids safe? No one. During an unexpected but horrific storm the kids decide to escape with a caretaker to a nearby farm where they discover enough food to sustain them and some semblance of what seems like safety. Jack brings along a host of animals he’s “saving” from the flood. He’s still busy with his bible.
What happens next definitely steps the tension up even more. And this is where Millet truly begins to show us where she’s going with this novel. Climate change is very real. It’s being written about an awful lot lately. So Millet has decided to show us that the next generation will have to clean up the mess the past generations have made. Her message is harsh, but the consequences are, too.
So, what did I think of this book? This is one of the first literary novels I’ve read since the pandemic came along and changed our world. I’ve been mostly reading light stories. Well-written, but light. This is as far from light as you can get. And it’s not for all my readers. But I found myself totally enmeshed in this story. I was rooting for the kids and it made me think. It’s extremely literary and the story packs a powerful punch. Read it if you dare! I think this novel is going to be up for many awards this year.
Lydia Millet has written many award winning literary novels. Her short story collection, LOVE IN INFANT MONKEYS was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Yes, she’s that good.
My beautiful finished copy of A CHILDREN’S BIBLE by Lydia Millet came from the very generous publishing company of Norton. I can’t thank them enough. It’s a real winner!
You can order copies of A CHILDREN’S BIBLE from Copperfish Books but they do not have them on the shelf at this time.