I got into this book from the first page. I was mesmerized by the senator’s wife as much as the character of Meri was. I wanted to talk to her, invite her for white wine in the back yard overlooking some beautiful purple flowers. I wanted to stare at her beautiful features and wonder at her secrets. I don’t know if I would have invaded her privacy as Meri did. I hated Meri for doing that but I was thrilled to be privy to the deeply emotional love affair between the senator’s wife and the senator. I must say that I find it weak to contemplate remaining with a man who cheats but I might chose that over never knowing how to love through so much pain, how to forgive through so much rage.
I found that there was a great dichotomy between the couples and their understanding of love, their experience of marriage. In Meri’s predictable universe she desires to be more like Deidre, to know what Deidre knows, and to feel what Delia feels. She doesn’t truly understand the relationship Deidre has with Tom but she’s envious of it. In the end, she has exactly what Delia would have wanted, what the unattainable Tom kept at arms length.
I didn’t like the characters at times but I understood the deeply rooted flaws of the female characters. I understood Meri’s desire and need to feel sexual again. I felt Delia’s horrible defeat at the end of the book and the absolute sorrow she felt when she realized that she could never have Tom the way she wanted him, not even at the end of his life, in his illness. I also felt the joyous freedom of Delia’s life, of living in Paris, of gaining a sense of space and distance only to give it up, but then gain it again in a bitter sweet way.
I found myself envying Delia though I’d never want to be in her shoes. What we all want is what Meri has. I think Meri finally came to realize that mundane is better than complex.
Sue Miller is a wonderful writer and she gets into her characters psyches, their weaknesses and their insecurities with so much delicate compassion. She makes us wonder if any of us ever really feels fulfilled when there are so many people to envy, to envy in our fantasy about them. But in the end, nothing is more real than our own life.
I would recommend this book because it angers you, because it tears at your heart strings, because it’s about how we heal and how we ache. It was a very human story. Go out and read it!