Monogamy

Sue Miller

Monogamy
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Monogamy

Sue Miller

Annie is not the first love of Graham’s life but she is, he thinks, his last and greatest. Very recently, he has faltered; but he means to put it right.

Here they are in marriage, in late middle age, in comfort. Mismatched, and yet so well matched: the bookseller with his appetite, his conviviality, his bigness; the photographer with her delicacy, her astuteness, her reserve. The children are offstage, grown up and scattered on either coast; Graham’s first wife, Frieda, is peaceably in their lives, but not between them. Then the unthinkable happens.

Now Annie stumbles in the dark: did she know all there was to know about the man who loved her? If no marriage is without its small indiscretions, how great does a betrayal have to be to be to break it?

A novel about marriage, family, secrets and love, Monogamy confirms Sue Miller’s place among the greatest writers at work in America today.

Review

The devil is always in the detail. Graham and Annie have been married for nearly thirty years, seemingly with great devotion. Graham is a bookseller. (Do I know him? I thought several times throughout the novel: is he based on someone I’ve met?) He is a gregarious man, curious and attentive, while his second wife Annie, a photographer, is more reserved and introspective. She is confident that despite Graham’s past, she is Graham’s last and greatest love. When Graham suddenly dies, peacefully, Annie is overcome with grief. While she is still in mourning, she discovers that Graham had been unfaithful to her. (The novel’s title is a give-away here.) Her despair is tangible, crushing and the milieu for self-evaluation.

Sue Miller’s skill is to invite you into a broader examination of what makes a relationship sustainable, loving and, indeed, monogamous. Using the character of Annie, she examines the frailty of humans: our flaws, our gifts and our deep, dark secrets. Surely this is a story for us all because the overarching issue of this particular novel is simply, love.

You do need a little patience with this story, and time to consider your own landscape. You will marvel at Miller’s ability to drop a clue here and there. You will draw a perverse delight in Miller’s well-considered skill of drawing you into an exposé of how people live and why. I was intrigued by this novel. Fans of the work of Anne Tyler or Liane Moriarty will delight in this novel because Miller, an American best-selling novelist, understands that the truth lies in the most mundane of details.


Chris Gordon is the programming and events manager for Readings.

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