Affecting memoir of intergenerational friendship.
Bernice Rosalie Miller, aka Byrne, was a pioneer of modern dance, a graduate of the school of hard knocks and the burlesque stage who grew comfortably old with a struggling-writer husband, Duncan, both fixtures in the cultural life of Beaufort, S.C. It was there that Bruce, a dancer and gymnast–turned–TV reporter looking for a different path, met them. Bruce was involved in a difficult relationship, complex as only difficult relationships can be, and still wounded by the tragic death of a young brother years before, so that friendship with the Millers came at just the right time, as Byrne became the voice of experience and “other mother” that Bruce needed. The author traces their stories separately and together, marking, in understated prose, the points where roads were not taken and fateful decisions were made. The Millers’ love story is invigorating and often charming, if now a touch old-fashioned; the modern Don Juan does not tug away a woman’s scarf and say, “Hold nothing back, my love….Every part of you is too stunning to subdue.” The narrative occasionally drags in earnestness, and the players are sometimes less scintillating than Bruce might wish; not everything they do and say is drenched in genius. In particular, Byrne’s apothegms (“Monogamy is overrated. Honesty is imperative”) become tiresome—Harold and Maude without the Harold. However, Bruce does a good job of weaving divergent stories into one, and there are some nice moments of emotion and drama, as when a manuscript of Duncan’s confronts Byrne with some uncomfortable truths (if disguised as fictions) at the same time that Byrne’s daughter decides to do the very thing that would shock her bohemian parents the most: enlist in the Marines.
Pleasant and sympathetic, even in its darker moments—of particular interest to readers schooled at the barre.