THE DISTINGUISHED GUEST by Sue Miller
Kirkus Star

THE DISTINGUISHED GUEST

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An intelligent, moving distillation of the lingering estrangements -- and old wounds -- that fester in families as the time runs out for forgiveness. Well-known writer Lily, now in her 80s and suffering from Parkinson's disease, moves in temporarily with her only son, Alan, and his wife while she awaits an opening in a nursing home. It's an increasingly common family predicament -- taking care of an aged parent at a time when the middle-aged child has yet to resolve some nagging questions about life and family -- and Miller sensitively explores these tensions as she tells Lily and Alan's story. Lily is a late-bloomer, a celebrity who wrote a bestselling memoir in her early 70s. Over the weeks, mother and son circle each other uneasily as they both recall happy as well painful memories. Alan, an architect who thinks he's lost his ideals, can't forgive Lily for divorcing his father, or for always taking the high road -- even when he was badly beaten by a black gang in their South Chicago neighborhood. Race, in fact, is a major subtheme here: Lily had divorced husband Paul, an inner-city Presbyterian minister, because she believed that he favored black separatism and no longer shared her vision of integration. And Paul once described Lily as a woman "of bracing coldness [to whom] the more instinctive forms of love were not so available." Now, though, as Lily sorts through old letters and talks to Linnett, a journalist writing a New Yorker profile of her, she realizes just how much she loved Paul. Meanwhile, Alan has his own epiphanies; and by the close, a cathartic storm will allow Lily to give him, at last, "all these loving moments he holds within himself -- the gift of memory." Overflowing with ideas, insights, and fine-tuned emotions. The bestselling Miller (For Love, 1993, etc.) illumines, as few storytellers can, the wrenching muddle most families make of their lives.
Pub Date: April 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-06-017673-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1995




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