Lydia Millet once complained that contemporary American fiction too often ignores “the world of the non-domesticated animal.” No one will accuse her of doing that in her new novel, “Magnificence.” The final book in a trilogy that began with “How the Dead Dream,” it tells the story of Susan Lindley, a recent widow who inherits the home of her great-uncle. The kicker? The house is filled, basement to attic, with elaborate taxidermic animals that her uncle killed.
When Susan inherits this home, she is completely lost and confused. She barely knew this generous uncle. Her husband, Hal (the protagonist of “Ghost Lights,” the second novel in the trilogy), has been stabbed to death in Central America. Susan is particularly stricken because, before his death, she’d been caught having sex with a co-worker. And her daughter has informed her that she’s working as a phone-sex operator. “She was a bad mother and a slut,” Susan thinks. “Her daughter was a bad daughter and a slut. Two sluts.”