|The Senator's Wife (Vintage Contemporaries)
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Meri is newly married, pregnant, and standing on the cusp of her life as a wife and mother, recognizing with some terror the gap between reality and expectation. Delia¡ªwife of the two-term liberal senator Tom Naughton¡ªis Meri's new neighbor in the adjacent New England town house. Tom's chronic infidelity has been an open secret in Washington circles, but despite the complexity of their relationship, the bond between them remains strong.
Soon Delia and Meri find themselves leading strangely parallel lives, as they both reckon with the contours and mysteries of marriage: one refined and abraded by years of complicated intimacy, the other barely begun. With precision and a rich vitality, Sue Miller¡ªbeloved and bestselling author of While I Was Gone¡ªbrings us a highly charged, superlative novel about marriage and forgiveness.
- The vicissitudes of marriage....
The vicissitudes of marriage....
In this novel, Sue Miller uses her delicate pen to bring to life the ups and down of the passionate, long-time marriage of Delia to Tom through an introduction by Meri, a newlywed neighbor.
If literary fiction is "about boring people doing nothing"--yet a story that enfolds you and takes you with it all the way through--Sue Miller has done an excellent job in keeping my interest. I could sympathize with Delia, I could understand her, even as, like her daughter, I wanted to shake her hard out of her devotion to a man who could not return it the same way.
The prose is mellifluous, yet it uses multi-images and repeated words to describe minute details that could use a lot less verbiage. At times, I wondered why Ms. Miller did not change the character's speech pattern and voice as she moved from one character's point-of-view to another's. The tone of the writing remained flat, distant, and while I could appreciate Ms. Miller's avoidance of dramatic prose to describe dramatic events, I could not find justification to her avoiding the most dramatic moments but to choose instead to tell them later, after the emotional storms dissipated. It was especially true at the end, when reality exploded in Delia's face.
Most importantly, I found the character of Meri and the non-story of her marriage to be as uninteresting as the flat voice in which it was told. If, as reviewers claim, Ms. Miller attempted to show the parallel between the two marriages--one old, one young--the comparison failed on me. I would have liked to see an editor cutting Meri's point-of-view out of the story even if the character might have been kept merely as a sidekick.
That said, it is rare for a book to hold my attention to the end. And that is Sue Miller's mysterious, unexplained gift.
- Liked very much, until ...
On second thought, I change my star rating to 4-stars.
I'm a fan of Sue Miller. To those disappointed reviewers who said they will never read another, I say, your loss. At least give While You Were Gone a try.
But back to this book, I liked it very much until the shocker ending. While Meri was rather whiney and snoopish, I think she is a fully human character with human flaws and struggles, some of which most women can relate. I thought her pregnancy and new mother issues poignant. But a journalist and wife of professor - she doesn't read parenting books? Meri had her redeeming qualities and I thought she would come to grips by virtue of a deepening friendship with Delia. Boy, was I wrong. I felt that there were more basic questions about Meri's character that went unanswered. And then the ending completely wrecked my expectation of some kind of self-understanding, self-acceptance, redemption. Instead, we find an ugly, corrupt soul lurking beneath her otherwise benign exterior. And where was her mother? What was that story? We only hear vague accusations but no substance to allow us to judge whether Meri's flaws are somehow explainable. But mother made no appearance, even after a new baby. Even through the Christmas holiday. This piece left me hanging, especially after her act of betrayal. I wanted to know more. Still, I simply found the act of betrayal implausible.
Delia, I felt I understood better, though, with her charms, beauty, temperment and status as former senator's wife, one wonders that she would cling to such a shabby remnant of a marriage, particularly while letting her children down so.
And the most underdeveloped character award goes to Nathan. I never could figure out whether he was emotionally invested in his marriage or a self-involved cad. We know from the outside he was a prize, but not much more. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, based on little hints along the way, but it never did, and I was left perplexed.
So perplexed and disappointed in the end sums it up. I really liked it until then. It was disturbing and apparently one of those "tragedy of real life" endings. But not my cup of tea. ...more info
- Why didn't I read the reviews first?
This might qualify as the worst book I've ever read--what a complete waste of time! Do not, under any circumstances, waste two days of your life reading this insipid character develop. I've never hated a fictional character as much as Meri Fowler. Is the name a precursor of the ending? Without a doubt!
Complete waste of time. Pitiful!...more info
- A tale of two wives
The Senator's Wife is really about two wives who live next door to each other in a duplex for about a year - a year that turns out to be pivotal for them both. It's a story about marriage and motherhood at different stages, and it reinforces the truism that no one really knows what goes on in a relationship except the people in it.
Meri meets Delia Naughton on the shared front porch of a duplex; she and her husband Nathan are about to buy one side of it, and Delia has been living on the other side for over thirty years. Meri, who tends to be drawn toward maternal figures, is fascinated by Delia, while Nathan is fascinated by Delia's husband, retired senator Tom Naughton, who never seems to be around. Delia has an open, yet reserved, way about her that makes Meri very curious, and when Delia goes to Paris for a couple of months, Meri's house-sitting gives her a chance to...well, snoop. What she learns makes her feel strange about her neighbors, especially when Tom Naughton eventually turns up at Delia's. Meri feels strange about a lot of things that year. A Midwest native, she has relocated to the East Coast for her husband's new faculty position, become a homeowner, found a new job, and unexpectedly gotten pregnant.
I'm not necessarily drawn to maternal figures, but I am somewhat intrigued by vital older women myself, and I shared Meri's fascination with Delia. After a number of infidelities on Tom's part, she's adapted quite well to living on her own in the house they shared, and in her own apartment in Paris for four months each year. But while she can't really live with Tom, she can't quite live without him either; and despite his affairs, he really can't let his wife go. The relationship they've maintained for over twenty years - to no one's knowledge but their own - seems to work fairly well for them both...until Tom suffers a stroke. When Delia decides it's up to her to assume the responsibility of caring for him, she brings him back home to stay.
Sue Miller's writing is almost stream-of-consciousness in places, as she spends a lot of time inside both Delia's and Meri's heads. This is a novel of domestic drama, but not melodrama. While the details may vary, a lot of what makes up the story in The Senator's Wife are things that happen every day - moments of marital intimacy and conflict; pregnancy, childbirth, and the difficult adjustments and sometime ambivalence of new motherhood (which I think Miller nails quite well); the mix of awkwardness and enjoyment in getting to know new people and places; and the challenges of aging and illness. The climax of the novel is not something that happens every day, but it makes sense in context, although I admit I was a bit dismayed by it. I was also a bit uncomfortable with how sexually charged the story was. As a writer whose novels tend to be character-driven and relationship-based, Miller has never shied away from sex as a theme or topic. I don't think she used it inappropriately or gratuitously here, but I just felt that she made direct reference to it more than was strictly necessary to serve the story; implication would have served just fine in a number of instances, in my opinion.
I've read most of Sue Miller's novels, and I think I'd place this one in the upper ranks, although Family Pictures remains my favorite. The Senator's Wife was absorbing reading - thoughtfully written, with characters and situations that I'm still thinking about....more info
- Loved this book!!!
I am a fan of Sue Miller and this is one of her best novels. It is so true to today's climate of extramarital relations and politicians. The family aspect of the story was complex, yet you felt connected to the characters from the very start of the book. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys contemporary fiction. ...more info
- Sue Miller Continues To Triumph
Sue Miller is incapable of writing a bad book. Comparisons here to the Clintons and so on are speculation by people who have nothing better to do. But this is not about DC and certainly paints no particular picture of celebrity wives. This a rich, sweetly turned novel with real women and real relationships that get you in the heart. Miller is as masterful as ever, and I would hope that anyone who appreciates fine literature and compelling stories for women and men as well will disregard any naysayers. This is an exquisite book, with many twists and turns and moments of pure beauty and poignancy. Highly recommended....more info
- Pointless and shallow
I haven't read Sue Miller's books since "The Good Mother", which I remember as daring about a taboo subject, and well written. This book, though, just seems utterly pointless to me, as if written off the cuff, and half asleep. Is she trying to draw parallels between the two women, and if so, what are they? What is the point of the horrible last few chapters, and what is she saying about Meri's character that she would transgress in the way she does? I've begun to think that Miller can't help but be drawn towards the taboo even at the risk of destroying her story (although truth to tell, I couldn't tell you what this story is actually about). Characters are poorly developed, particularly Nathan, but also Delia, who is constantly described as a private, close-to-the-vest sort of person, when in fact her dialogue seems to offer just the opposite. Her work life is deathly dull to read about. The sex is drippy, if you like it like that. Maybe good beach reading for some (and I suppose that's why the marketing department titled it the way they did, to sell to readers, primarily women, who like this kind of cheap escapism). I found it an utter waste of time....more info
- Good story, despite the characters
There are no likable characters in this book, and in particular I found Meri absolutely loathsome. But I still found myself unable to stop reading it, which must say something about how talented a writer Sue Miller is. The surprise towards the end is quite shocking....more info
- Not As Satisfying As her Other Works
I enjoyed The Senator's Wife, but found it less satisfying than other works of Ms. Miller's. The ending seemed contrived and I wasn't happy with it. The marriage between the main characters seemed much less likely in real life....more info
- In Defense of Monica Lewinsky?
Not Her Best
There is always a seductive aspect to Sue Miller's novels and this one is no different. Intimacies are obsessively detailed until they embed the reader in the complicated emotional lives of her characters. She's a very engaging writer and there are many good moments of emotional tension and sexual jealousy and deception in The Senator's Wife.
But that trait, in so many of Miller's women, which borders on the slatternly looms large in this story; and the questionable moral choices made are less understandable here than in her other work. Some characters' willingness to gratify their own sexual need at the expense of their own and others' emotional bonds are not so much ethically ambiguous as pathological.
The story parallels two couples living as neighbors in a New England town. Meri and Nathan are in their 30s, newlywed. Delia and Tom are in their 70s, he a former well-known U.S. Senator. Set in the early `90s, this story also parallels the Clinton presidency in several ways. Tom--a charismatic, liberal, womanizing politician whose wife never divorced him despite repeated humiliations--suffers a terrible setback in 1994. Delia, the senator's wife, is a strong character in her own right. She has lived separately from Tom for many years and has an independent life, but is still his lover and friend. She chooses to help him after his setback. Meri is the Monica Lewinsky character. In Meri's case, her background is one of poverty and maternal neglect. Thus damaged, she occasionally steals, often lies, and has thoroughly snooped through Delia's private papers. She has few, if any, inner resources and seems only able to define herself through male sexual desire; she only feels whole in the gaze of male attention. She is also portrayed as a bright, educated journalist who is married to Nathan, a more attractive, "patrician" and honest person than she. I found her character implausible, unsympathetic and annoying. Ultimately Meri plays a sexual "game" with Tom as they both indulge a need to feed their desperate egos through sexual dalliance. Meri lies about her role and suffers no consequences to her family although others are hurt.
The problem with all this is that it appears Miller wants us to exonerate Meri and to agree with her delusion that, really, what she did was "out of love". And that Delia, who "prides herself" on being forgiving, is actually an unforgiving person because she only wants to live with Tom if he cannot be his old self--that Delia is emasculating Tom by wanting fidelity in return for her care and commitment. In other words, the story's moral ambiguity slips into negative judgment of the honorable Delia and exoneration of the damaged Meri and reprobate Tom who help each other restore their flagging self-esteem through sexual games. It's as if an alcoholic who had a history of DUIs, and had even maimed a pedestrian or two, was feeling depressed not drinking, so another alcoholic who also needed a lift brought a bottle of scotch to him for the two of them to drink. They felt restored and lively as they drank, though some people got hurt, but opening that bottle of scotch was an act of love, we are expected to believe.
If The Senator's Wife is supposed to be a defense of Monica Lewinsky or Meri, I don't believe it works. In addition, there were some errors and unpolished, mundane prose in this book which would not usually occur in a work by someone of Miller's stature. The text seemed to need another run-through, but perhaps it was rushed to publication in order to coincide with Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
- A favorite book
I absolutely loved this book and did not think that Delia was anything like Hillary Clinton, who a number of reviewers likened her too. This is a story about two very different women Delia, who stands by her man despite the fact that he constantly cheats on her and even with her daughter's friend. I believe Delia was foolish but for those years that she had her husband (the Senator) she seemed to be at her happiest. Would I do as she did, not in a New York minute but to each his own. I would have loved to know more about Meri's background and the fact that she was unable to fully love her son Asa. I saw her as a damaged woman; she obviously had an unhappy childhood and her ability to parent was hampered by that. Does that heppen often, I believe it does but it is not spoken about. I thought the characters in the book were portrayed wonderfully and I swallowed it up in two days. I would highly recommend the book to any thinking woman....more info
- The Senator's Wife
"The Senator's Wife" was a good read, and made many points about life and relationships. I'm glad I read it....more info
To say this book is profound is really silly. A man in politics cheating on his wife - where did the author come up with such a story.
I personally thought the book was a bore and Danielle Steelish. ...more info
- Interesting reviews here
I liked this book - but more than that, I find the reviews here interesting. So many comments about "how could she still have sex with that philanderer" etc. I am 52 years old -- old enough to maybe have some perspective on why a person like Delia might stick around for her "husband." It doesn't have much to do with feminism, or whatever. It is really about life, in all of it's unevenness and unfairness. It's about dealing with aging, and the "choices" men and women have as they age.
I could see why all the things in this book happened. Mostly, I could see Meri's feelings about being pregnant, and how she felt afterwards (her body's "functionality") and her difficulty learning how to love her first born and her trouble reconnecting with her husband.
While some of this book is improbable (hence, my 4 stars) overall a good bit of it resonated with me....more info
- interesting, but disturbing
It took me a while to get into this book. The first chapter introduces you to a somewhat dark, depressing character, some 4-letter words related to sex, and just generally read slow for several chapters. I wasn't sure I was going to want to continue reading.
Then the story picks up, and the character seems to be coming into her own and she befriends the Senator's Wife.
For the most part, I enjoyed reading this book, despite the fact that I didn't like how sex seemed to be on everyone's minds much of the time and some of the author's choice of words were uncouth and a bit offensive.
But I did enjoy the story as it developed and it held my interest throughout.
However....the culmination left me disturbed. On so many levels. Not only is "the surprise" so upsetting, but it sent me into this feeling of that awful haunting of guilt I imagined Meri was living with after that sinful act. How depressing. But then...the last few pages tells us that she seems perfectly comfortable with her decisions and wouldn't do them any differently. That's even more disturbing as a book's ending....more info
This book was marketed very well and I honestly thought it would be great! But no!!! I couldn't find a bit of sympathy for Meri and I was totally frustrated with Delia's continual desire for a husband with the wandering eye. The story is contrived and boring. I ended up skimming through much of it just to get to the ending and then to find out it's not shocking at all. What a waste of 6 hours....more info
- Don't Bother
How did this happen? I love intelligent thrillers (Robin Cook, Stephen Frey, Michael Palmer) yet somehow ended up with this weak, weary, woe-to- women piece of drivel. Who could publish a book this boring and meaningless? To learn the story line, read one of the other reviews; I cannnot bear to reiterate it. Save your time and money and read almost anything else. ...more info
- Chick book for sure
I have vision issues--and I listen to books now, not read them. But the reader's plummy tone quickly put me in chick book territory. Then when they named the kid Asa, I knew this was way too cute. Don't they look at possible nicknames, these book characters? Well, the mother was Meri (this was spelled out in the text). That explains a lot. She's not that Meri. Oh--and a woman putting up with a philanderer, gosh, that's new. And then she gets to be his nurse, with all her evolved love and everything. My dream. Sometimes I am so glad I am not evolved....more info
- "The Senator's Wife" disappoints
Although I had high hopes for Sue Miller's The Senator's Wife, it was a disappointment. While the title itself hints that the role of a politician's spouse includes loss of her own identity, the book was really not about identity at all. Told through the eyes of a newly married neighbor, a young woman sorely lacking in self-esteem due to a poor relationship with her own mother, the novel recounts how Delia, the wife of a philadering senator, exerts control over her husband and her own life. The young wife, Meri, constantly seeks approval from all those around her--her husband, her co-workers, her neighbor Delia, the senator's wife of the title, an older woman portrayed as Meri's substitute mother, and the senator himself. Of course the book has some really hot sex scenes describing lovemaking between the younger woman, Meri, and her husband Nathan and between the senator and his wife and some of his paramours. However, the adequate characterization and steamy descriptions don't make up for the lack of any real plot or any real motivation for the characters. Told through the eyes of the women, what this novel really needs is a man't point of view. ...more info
- Can we give a 'minus' star?
We have seen a dreary number of photo-ops with loyal wife standing by recently-exposed cheating political figure husband. I thought perhaps this book might give some insight into the mind of a woman who suffers such humiliation yet stays the course. Wrong. If anything, Delia Naughton, the title's character, leaves us even more puzzled. The senator himself has clearly lost his moral compass, not only cheating regularly on his wife, but then using her shamelessly during his next political campaign. And she even recognizes he's doing it. Don't read this book if you expect any rationale or perspective about women willing to wear a "Kick me, Hurt me" sign on their backs. I think I only finished it because it was kind of like watching a train wreck. The characters are people you hope never to have for neighbors and there was no moral to the story. This book should come with a Tammy Wynette recording of "Stand by Your Man." ...more info
- Shocking, uncomfortable, amazing ending shows writer's talent
I had never read a Sue Miller novel before. Though I was very disappointed with the ending because of the characters' behavior and what that represents, just the fact that the author brought us to such a disquieting conclusion shows the depth of her talent. Real life disappoints sometimes. To those who would criticize Delia for keeping Tom in her life, that's also something that happens more often than anyone would want to admit. For whatever reasons, this book stayed with me a lot longer than many. I plan to read more of Sue Miller....more info
What a disappointment! Sue Miller has a great way with words but the characters were a great disappointment. It's difficult to read a novel when you dislike all the people....more info