The story of a man named Gil who walks from New York to Arizona to recover from a failed love. After he arrives, new neighbors move into the glass-walled house next door and his life begins to mesh with theirs. In this warmly textured, drily funny, and philosophical account of Gil's unexpected devotion to the family, Millet explores the uncanny territory where the self ends and community begins—what one person can do in a world beset by emergencies.
Lydia Millet’s magnificent new novel, Dinosaurs, highlights our shortcomings in terms of how we treat each other and our environment, and subtly seeks to draw some lessons from the natural world ... Millet rel[ies] on spare prose that is dense with meaning if the reader wants to think deeper, but otherwise feels simply like edifying naturalist interludes. Her observations about human behavior are astute ... Millet writes with a dexterous rhythm and she has a natural ear for lived-in dialogue ... Time after time, Dinosaurs develops in unexpected directions, avoiding several potentially cliched turns and any sort of moralizing messaging. The novel buzzes with an uneasy undercurrent of violence.
... the notable thing about Dinosaurs is that no deviancy bubbles beneath its surface ... The wholesomeness of it all, combined with Ms. Millet’s effortlessly readable prose, sometimes slips into blandness. I think that the chorus of voices in the author’s superb linked-story collection Fight No More (2018) makes for a more engaging way to dramatize quiet acts of compassion. But there is something new and unusual about Dinosaurs, even so. The novel is conscious of intractable global crises yet it focuses on local problems that can be confronted and overcome in honorable ways. It wants to pioneer a trail out of generalized despair and into active goodness.
In her 15 books, Millet has perfected charged, science-based prose that takes a surgeon’s loupe to how people interact with nature ... Just as Gil is trying to rewrite his destiny, Dinosaurs asks whether we can redirect the climate catastrophe’s plot toward a different ending. In many ways, Millet’s latest novel rings a more hopeful note than her previous work. Let’s take that as a good sign.