"Life teaches us... you can get used to anything."
Jan 10, 2009
The newly-married woman. The senator's wife. A generation of differences. In 1993, when Meri Fowler and her husband, Nathan, move into the other half of a stately home owned by Delia Naughton, wife of former senator Tom Naughton, a Washington mover and shaker and beltway roué who now visits his wife only sporadically, Meri is fascinated by the older Delia. Without examining her reasons, Meri hopes for an intimacy that seems always out of reach, especially as Delia travels frequently to visit her grown children and to a secluded Paris apartment. It is Nathan who is curious about the senator, hoping in vain for a meeting, which fails to occur but for a brief time one holiday. Life settles into routine until Meri learns she is pregnant, her world suddenly shifting from an engaging job at a local radio station to the tunnel-vision of new motherhood, all-consuming days of feeding, changing, feeding, sleeplessness a further strain on a once carefree marriage.
But Delia is the centerpiece of Miller's engaging novel, a self-contained woman who has learned at last to make peace with an untrustworthy husband and the shattering of a dream, his peccadilloes finally driving a wedge into their marriage. Delia survives, healing with time and circumstance, the façade of gentility intact. And Delia's natural generosity toward Meri is not significant, at least to the senator's wife, caught up in her own emotions as the ground shifts once more in her relationship with Tom, a long-hoped for contretemps shimmering on the horizon. It is Miller's juxtaposition of the lives of these two women that drives the story, Delia's long journey through a marriage that has challenged her on every level, Meri the unwitting, if randomly destructive catalyst: "It was as if she dropped out of time, out of its press and obligation, out of its failings. Her failings."
The nature of marriage and motherhood, the needs of women at various stages of their lives, the roles of spouses and abrupt, devastating betrayals are themes Miller knows well, describes persuasively. The Naughton's painful marriage is a revelation, an explanation of the generational drift in then and now, women who committed themselves to marriage and children, their husband's careers dominating their lives. In the self-absorbed world of her youth and new motherhood, Meri is shockingly unaware of the consequences of her actions; but even youth is a chimera- Meri is thirty-six, not some naïve young married with a new baby. Meri hasn't earned her curiosity, her intrusiveness and Delia has spent a lifetime protecting her privacy. How can Meri begin to comprehend the dignity of such as Delia, the hard-won rewards of devotion? Marriages are impossible to predict, let alone happy endings. Miller's precise manipulation of human frailty, the small, important counterpoints and misunderstandings that beleaguer her characters are compelling. Luan Gaines.
An artist/writer, I have traveled the world, walked on the moon and learned the complicated language of humanity, the enormity of the universe... all through the written word. My first passport was a … more
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