For fans of Anita Shreve and Anne Tyler
Sue Miller is the author of the books While I Was Gone, The Good Mother, Family Pictures, For Love, Inventing The Abbots, The World Below, The Story of My Father and Lost in the Forest. She lives in Boston.
Thirty years after she discovers her best friend murdered, Jo Becker finds her now-happy life unraveling.
'An astonishing mix of the warm, complex and frightening ... the stuff of real life that is rarely conveyed in fiction' Mail on Sunday 'Like Joanna Trollope, Miller is a fine artist of the domestic' Sunday Telegraph 'A beautiful and frightening book ... Many readers will find it difficult to forget' New York Times Book Review 'Miller weaves her themes of secrecy, betrayal and forgiveness into a narrative that shines' Time
The shadowy and inexorable nemesis of past secrets to a reclaimed life, and the inability even of those who are intimates to really know one another, are poignant themes in Miller's resonant fifth novel. Narrator Jo Becker, now a veterinarian married to a minister in a small Massachusetts town, was once a runaway bride who assumed a false name and lived with other dissaffected '60s bohemians in a group house in Cambridge. Her special friend in the house was sweet-spirited and generous Dana Jablonski, whose shocking‘and unsolved‘murder broke up the group and left Jo with unresolved questions about her own identity. She manages to ignore the memories of that time until, almost three decades later, one of the former housemates, Eli Mayhew, moves to her town. Eli, now a distinguished research scientist, provides a revelation that acts as the catalyst provoking Jo to face her guilt about her past behavior‘and to act impulsively once again. Her moral conundrum occasions a heartrending change in her heretofore strong marriage and undermines her relationship with her three grown daughters. As usual, Miller (The Good Mother; Family Pictures) renders the details of quotidian domesticity with bedrock veracity and a sensitivity to minute calibrations of family dynamics, especially the nuances of sibling rivalry. But while the pacing, tone and measured exposition are handled with masterly skill, the way in which Jo's decision to make amends for her past rebounds on her present life seems staged and convoluted, since her husband and children seem to think that retribution for a murder should take second place to their own emotional needs. That cavil aside, Miller's narrative is a beautifully textured picture of the psychological tug of war between finding integrity as an individual and satisfying the demands of spouse, children and community. 150,000 first printing; Random House audio; BOMC selection; author tour. (Feb.)