Rating 3 / 5
This book has been my ‘bath’ book for the past few months (ie: the paperback that I read in the bath as my Kindle isn’t made for baths!). It’s one of those books that had been on the shelf for a long while, and I’d never got round to reading.
As I read, I update my progress on GoodReads which in turn updates my twitter feed. Quite a lot of my followers replied to say ‘good book, but gets a bit weird at the end’. I’m inclined to agree. This is an interesting book, but does get very very odd in the last section.
Essentially, the story follows two women, Delia the wife of Senator Tom Naughton, and Meri, the young woman, newly married embarking on a new life, in a new home in a new town. Meri and her husband, Nate, move in next door to the Naughton’s and the story follows the two women and their lives.
I have to say that Miller’s writing is very detailed, she describes things in the smallest of detail which I guess gets a little grating at times, especially as it doesn’t always add anything to the story. None of the characters were particularly likeable. Meri and her husband seem at odds with each other, and almost a little unsettled and uncomfortable with the path their lives take, and the inevitable changes and Delia, well, Delia is a strange one.
She is the wronged party (her Senator husband has numerous affairs) but despite this, I couldn’t warm to her at all. When her husband needs her she acts, but is it to control him, to regain that sense of one upmanship that she never had in their marriage? I’m unsure.
Ultimately this book makes for uncomfortable reading, especially the end bit. It just wasn’t believable to me. [Spoiler alert] Meri is clearly uncomfortable with the changes to her body throughout her pregnancy, and struggles to come to terms with her new life once Asa is born; she talks about being reduced to an animal and her body having a different purpose. But the twist with Tom; I’m sorry it just wasn’t believable to me at all. The book end some years on with Meri stating that what she did, she did out of love. But love for who? Herself (did she want to feel wanted and loved and viewed as a woman?) Love for Tom (unlikely given she had spent so little time with him) Love for Delia? (I’m not sure, she clearly wanted something from Delia, maybe she saw her as a motherly figure and wanted to prove that Tom would never change, despite his condition?) or love for her husband and son, (trying to regain her femininity and her relationship).
I was just left unconvinced. The last section is uncomfortable reading (especially for me as a pregnant lady!) and it read like cheap titillation. A shame really as up until that point the prose had been graceful. This quality was lost as Meri and Tom played their ‘game’. I just didn’t buy it.
All in all, I was left a little confused by this book. I don’t really know what the aim was; was it to prove that we’re all just animals when it comes to it? Or that we all have deep rooted needs, regardless of our situations, be it widow, new mother or someone facing physical challenges? I don’t know.
All that is clear to me though, is that I won’t be rushing to read any more of Sue Millers books in the future.