There are moments in life when certain reactions are expected, with the marriage of a child: joy, the divorce of a close friend: sympathy, the death of a loved one: grief. Grief is pain and loss, remembrance and yearning. That is what is expected but what if that is not what is felt? In Sue Miller’s latest work we find four characters all going through the motions of life, trying to feel what is expected of them, and to not feel the guilt at not feeling appropriately when life is not always fair. They all need release and The Lake Shore Limited is their vehicle in many ways.
The Lake Shore Limited is Billy’s achievement, her bereavement over the loss of her lover Gus in 9/11, her puzzlement over the appropriate emotion to be felt at that time all wrapped into her art as a playwright. She has babied it for years; pining over its ending as though writing her own future. And now Gus’ sister Leslie will be coming to view her work. What will she see in its undertones? Will the emotional response to the possible death of a loved one be correct or will she find it wanting and guess at Billy’s secret. That maybe her grief was not what it should have been.
Along for the ride on this night of drama is Leslie’s husband Pierce and her once more than friend Sam whom she hopes will cheer Billy who has absolutely no desire for companionship. However Sam himself carries his own emotional load having lost his wife to cancer and raised three young boys all on his own. Is he ready for a companion or has life passed him by as it does so many?
The lead actor in The Lake Shore Limited is also searching for the correct emotional response both on stage and off. Rafe searches for the answer of how to cope with his wife’s wasting illness and his marriage to an invalid, which will only end with him as a widower in a few short years. Joining his emotions to that of his character Gabriel begins a journey for all involved. A journey about discovering what feelings are appropriate in life’s most difficult situations and what feelings actually exist in those times, a journey about life itself at it’s worse. Is happiness possible after Hell?
In The Lake Shore Limited Miller asks her readers to consider the sides of grief and loss. She asks them to look beyond what is expected and creates four powerful characters with which to paint her canvas. In her four characters we get stories that are impossible to let go of once the book is closed because they seem so alive, so vulnerable, so very human. We connect with them on that level. Miller’s powerful message combined with her honest portrayal of life and loss makes this work her next masterpiece. Woven of love, loss and life, The Lake Shore Limited should not be missed.