Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Senator's Wife - Sue Miller


I’m not exactly a poster girl for the institution of marriage these days, so it’s a testament to Sue Miller’s story telling skills that she captured and held my interest with her latest novel The Senator’s Wife. (Of course, it helps that I am a huge fan of this author – have read every book she’s written.)

This is a story of two marriages – each unique, each a complicated and compelling arrangement between its partners. Love is the anchor keeping these marriages afloat. Beneath the turbulent waves of circumstance, emotion, character flaws and confusion, the two main characters (the wives) learn to adapt to the constant changes and demands of marriage. In doing so, they learn about themselves – their own strengths and weaknesses.

The story is told from the perspective of both women. One is recently married and struggling with her new status and place in life. When she gives birth, her struggle and bewilderment are compounded. The other woman (the Senator’s wife*) is a survivor of a long-standing marriage whose husband’s infidelities force her to acknowledge her own flaws. Or are they strengths?

The relationship between the two women is a complicated and fascinating one. The older woman is (at times unwittingly) a mentor for the younger one. The younger one studies (at times intrusively) the underpinnings of that other marriage as she tries to make sense of her own.

Ultimately, both women find their own way, their own contentment and peace with their lives and choices – but with intriguing twists and turns marking their respective journeys.

While reading this book you are granted the privilege of having access to the private thoughts, doubts, fears and emotions of two women you come to care about.

And left to contemplate the meaning and the many faces of love itself.

Not only does Miller explore what makes each marriage work in its own unique way, she also shows that marriage itself requires work. Adapting to the different stages of a marriage is necessary – as is compromise.

How far should one compromise? What are the consequences of doing so? These questions and the answers you come away with make this book well worth reading. Happily-ever-after is not a given.


*This review is rather timely considering the fact both Silda Spitzer (wife of N.Y. Governor Eliot Spitzer) and Hillary Clinton are in the news these days. Reading the book enables you to understand that “stand by your man” phenomenon - whether or not you’d ever do the same.

18 comments:

patricia said...

Sounds intriguing!

And yes, what bizarre timing, what with the news about that schmuck Spitzer...

Whether his wife decides to stay with him or not is their business, and her decision. What I can't stand is witnessing over and over again these poor shell-shocked wives standing next to their cheating husbands (because so far it's always cheating politician husbands, not politician wives) as the putz gives his pathetic apology to news reporters.

Why don't any of these guys have the balls to stand ALONE and face the cameras?

Beth said...

patricia:
I'm wondering why the women don't have the balls (or whatever the female equivalent is - the boobs?) to say, "There's no way in hell I'm standing beside you for that press conference. You're on your own, pal!"

Eileen said...

I am adding this book to my list.

I just don't get why the wife has to be there. I understand, they have kids. If she stays with him or not, that is up to her. BUT, no way would I stand there next to him, in front of all those cameras. He needs to stand alone on that one. Grrr.
XOX

Nomad said...

Beth- first of all a SUPER review, it is on my reading list for sure.

(I love your reviews) you do them SO well!

Second, I always say you never know what goes on behind closed doors, and there are lots of women out there who are not angels either.
Having said that I just DID NOT GET why Hillary stuck around after all that Lewinsky stuff...I could not bear it, privately maybe but in front of the ENTIRE WORLD?
Ugh... but then again it is a testament to many things and who am I to say...? Love is a powerful thing, and there are lots of different ways ot have a relationship.

Did I say great review??
:-)

Beth said...

eileen:
A partner (if she chooses to continue being one) but NOT a prop, right?

nomad:
I never understood the Hillary/Bill/Monica thing either. (And it wasn't just Monica.)
But, whatever works for them...

Thanks for the kind words re: the review!

Jen M. said...

I was just at the bookstore! I am returning to get this book - THANKS!!

Jen M. said...

And I'm with Patricia.

If I see one more glossy-eyed woman on CNN standing there as her husband admits to being a total loser asshole - well, I will lose it.

Mrs. G. said...

I bought this book on Sunday despite my empty promise to myself to order all fiction books from the library to save $$. I love Sue Miller and I can't wait to read this, especially since you've given it a thumbs up.

Sherry ~ Cherie ~ ms. herbes de provence said...

Very timely indeed. Why is it that when the men do these things that they know are bound to be discovered, and then they are "outed" -- why oh why do the women look like "poor me" in the photos? Cripes...I don't think I could sink that low...

Sounds like a great read! I've love to discuss it with you over coffee and cookies!!! LOL!

La La said...

"Ultimately, both women find their own way, their own contentment and peace with their lives and choices"

Somehow, we find our way, don't we?

Great review. You write so well.

As for the woman standing by her man, I think they are shell-shocked, and that those news conferences are thrown in their faces so quickly that they don't have a chance to even decide what it is they REALLY want to do. It is a weird phenomenon.

As for the Bill Clinton thing, I hold him totally responsible. It really makes no difference to me what Monica did -- if she danced naked on his desk, even, he should have said, "Put your clothes, young lady. I'm a married man, and I'm President of the United States, and nothing is going to happen between us." Seriously, it was such an abuse of his power. It makes my blood BOIL! And, why does Monica get branded for life, and he doesn't -- at least not like she did. I give her some credit. She left the country. Went and got herself a Master's Degree, attempted to move on, and yet, she's still deemed "the biggest slut of the 20th Century" -- I read that on someone else's blog recently. I was outraged. I am not saying she's completely innocent. I think she was immature and insecure and easily flattered. I think she got sucked in and did a whole lot things she shouldn't have when she should have run like hell.
I think we should extend as much grace to her as we have to him.

La La said...

Well, that was quite a long rant, huh? Pardon my taking up so much space.

Beth said...

I love your book reviews....you open up alot of new authors to me. sounds good!!

Cheri said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I'm going to order it.

Beth said...

jen m.:
Enjoy the book - and you probably will see another wife stand by her man - don't lose it!

mrs. g.
Good timing - and excellent purchase.

sherry:
Those men have such egos they probably think they won't be discovered!

la la:
Great comment. Totally agree.
(You should do a post about this...)

beth:
She is such a wonderful writer - try all her books.

cheri:
Enjoy!

Shari said...

There are many women who "stand behind" their men for whatever reason. Some for financial reasons, the lifestyle. low self-esteem, blackmail, braimwashing....

I went through a divorce because of my ex's unfaithfulness. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I do NOT understand how women can do this under the media's limelight. To publically "accept" that he was unfaithful and say he's "forgiven"? I couldn't do that. My head would be hanging at the thought of all those people thinking how I could put up with that. Sorry, too personal.

I never forgot about Kathy Lee Gifford IShe used to co-anchor with Regis Philbin). I don't know if this was an interview or what, but she stayed with her husband after that deal (a trap set up by a journalist?) with a call girl or something after a game. Kathy was just in tears over it, years after that incident, talking about that. It's very painful.

Good review, BTW. :)

Beth said...

shari:
I wouldn't do it either. And judging by the reaction of most females to such a display, I don't understand why the husbands (or PR people) think it helps.

Angela said...

Thanks for the recommendation. And I wholeheartedly agree with you. Standing next to him at a press conference? No. Not for me. My ex got his ass fired, and had divorce papers that same week. Not a good week for him, I assure you. I wouldn't have done it any other way. Demand respect, or it won't be given to you -- that's how I feel.

Angela said...

p.s. But I was still shell shocked, believe me. I was definitely having an out-of-body experience during those weeks and I'm sure that someone could have just led me around by the arm and I wouldn't have even known what was going on. A walking coma -- that's what I was in.