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.