WHILE I WAS GONE by Sue Miller

WHILE I WAS GONE

KIRKUS REVIEW

Now, in a richly textured but emotionally cool novel, Miller (The Distinguished Guest, 1995, etc. ) limns a fall from grace and the hard climb back to redemption as a woman tempted to take a timeout from her marriage almost destroys all the good things in her life. Jo Becker, a veterinarian in a small Massachusetts town, is intensely aware of all those seemingly inconsequential yet important daily habits—taking walks with the family dogs, cooking dinner, going fishing—that form part of the marital glue. The mother of three grownup daughters, and married to local pastor Daniel, fiftyish Jo considers herself fortunate until Eli Mayhew, new in town, brings his ailing dog to her and reminds her of their shared past. In the weeks that follow, as she prepares for Thanksgiving and Christmas, she recalls her failed first marriage and her flight from her parents to a new identity and life in Boston (where she and Eli had once been housemates). After a mutual friend’s grisly and unsolved murder, Jo returned to her family, became a vet, and met Daniel. But as she starts to reminisce with Eli, now a distinguished scientist, she finds herself yearning for her old freedom—and beginning an affair with Eli. A horrifying admission frightens her into offering a parallel confession of her own to her husband. Terribly hurt, he finds it hard to forgive her, but the marriage slowly begins to mend in spite of it. Jo, conscious of what it will cost her to regain his trust and love, tries “to accept the changes I made when I didn’t intend to.” Despite being a finely tuned take on a good marriage suddenly imperiled by the vagaries of the heart, this latest from the popular Miller is more a perceptive study than absorbing story. Both Joe and Daniel—never very credible to begin with—remain one- dimensional ideas rather than full-blooded characters.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-375-40112-1
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1998




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