How the Dead Dream
By Lydia Millet
Counter Point Press
Let me just say first that “How the Dead Dream” is quite possibly one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever read. And let me say secondly, that I absolutely HATED the ending. This is one of those books that you don’t really know how the story ends…you are left hanging and have to make an assumption of what happens…which is a HUGE frustration to me.
So that being said, let me tell you about the good stuff. You start out in this book by learning about T., a young boy who has an obsession with money. Well, obsession is really putting it mildly. He extorts money from his classmates, earns money through surreptitious means whenever possible, and he even goes through a period of time where he carries coins in his mouth because he wants to really “feel” the money. The description of T.’s childhood is incredible. He is an odd character, to say the least, but the author’s ability to make you understand his oddities is magical. The author is so matter-of-fact about T.’s weirdness that you almost begin to see it as normal.
The book travels through T.’s childhood and then adulthood, until he becomes the caretaker for his ailing mother. The mother is another interesting character. My favorite part about her is when she dreams that she dies and (instead of going to heaven or hell) she is trapped in a Waffle House. To her, it is the most horrible horror of horrors to think that when she dies she will spend eternity in a Waffle House (I’m sure most of us can relate to that). This is the beginning of many life-changing events for T. The story turns in a whole new direction and starts to focus on T.'s newfound obsession with "last" animals (species who are facing extinction); which is pleasantly ironic because of T.'s chosen career as a real estate developer. Like I said, the story turns.
I did enjoy reading this book and would have given it a higher mark if it wasn’t for the way the story ended. If you don’t mind having to use your imagination a little bit to get some closure at the end, though, I would recommend this one just for the sheer ability of the author to make you see things so vastly differently than the way they actually are (not to mention the fact that the book has an interesting name and an intriguing cover...)