Filmmaker Miller debuts with seven spare, elegant stories delineating the haphazard choices that influence women’s journeys through life.
Daughter of playwright Arthur Miller and photographer Inge Morath, the author obviously knows well the various cloistered social worlds of New York City and its rural environs whose occasional collisions she deftly portrays. The eponymous protagonist of “Louisa” (each tale is named after its heroine) watches her mother earn dubious fame as a naif artist, creating ceramics so bizarre that bohemian Manhattanites embrace the Dutchess County native with the kind of regard offered a lame pet. When Louisa grows up she becomes a painter, entangled in one affair after another, always searching for the excitement new love brings. In the troubling “Nancy,” the neglected only daughter of Manhattan socialites goes to great lengths to gain a little attention: pretending to drown at the country club swimming pool, making gruesome drawings for her nanny, a college student of child development. “Julianne” shows a woman coming to terms with being the wife of a great man. Joe, a famous writer and many years her senior, seemed a wonderful choice as a husband for a budding poet. But now the 41-year-old mother of a little girl has scant time for poetry and realizes at a dinner party filled with Joe’s intellectual buddies that she is no longer a writer herself, simply the hostess. In “Paula,” a woman being walked to her car by a man she just met in a club narrowly misses being hit by a passing vehicle, a speeder that kills her companion. Over the next few hours, the shell-shocked Paula picks up a hitchhiker who turns out to be an abuse victim, tells her mother she’s pregnant but will abort, and tentatively reconciles with her boyfriend in Brooklyn. This uneven tale of luck and fate closes the collection.
Simple prose goes far in exploring complicated lives.