Friday, June 13, 2008

Book Review: The Senator's Wife

The Senator's Wife chronicles the lives of two women whose stories become intertwined when they become neighbors. Meri and Nathan are newly married, and Meri is filled with the insecurities of an unstable childhood. Delia is in her 70s and has lived a complicated life as the wife of an openly unfaithful Senator. Meri is instantly drawn to the elegant but mysterious Delia, and she begins a hunt for the story of Delia and Tom. In the course of the story, Meri makes a critical error that changes the course of both of their lives.

I like this book by Sue Miller. I don't think I've read anything by this author since Family Pictures, back 15 years ago or so. This isn't a breathtaking novel; it isn't one that I thought much about when I finished it. But Miller is a good writer. She creates characters I can almost see perfectly, and she has some wonderful insights that made me stop and say, "Yes! Exactly!" I love those moments when something that I've thought, but not verbalized, is put into words. Like this bit on the study of history:
"Doesn't it all start--our interest in the past--with our wanting to know more about our own parents? … That drive we all have to get to the root of their attraction to each other. We always want their story, don't we? It's the first history we're really curious about. And the last one. It haunts us. Because it's a history with the most important consequence in the world--is. Us and our story. Our history."

And this one toward the end of the book, as Meri reflects upon her marriage:

"She had thought [15 years ago] that she knew already what their marriage was, what its limits were. She had thought they were in it. She didn't know they'd barely begun. She couldn't have imagined the long, slow processes that would change them, change what they felt for each other. She would never have guessed, either, the way the children would remake them and their love."

I've read some criticism of this book that points to disappointment in Delia's "stand by your man" policy, but I thought Miller did a great job of revealing Delia's dilemmas and her decisions. Meri's choices were a little harder for me to take, but still--I enjoyed the book.


Jenaisle said...

I will have to look for this one in the local bookstore. I hope they have it. It is not often that the lives of those in the political arena are created into fiction.

Thanks for sharing.

Carrie K. said...

I listened to this one on audiobook. I liked it - until the plot twist at the end. I just couldn't get past it, that Meri would do that. I did understand Delia's character and the choices she made, though I can't say I would have walked it out the way she did. You're right, though, Miller is a very good writer.