Bestselling author and Top Ten contributor Sue Miller is receiving glowing reviews for her latest novel, Monogamy. It’s no surprise since this story showcases what Miller does so exquisitely: provide a richly detailed, poignant and surprising portrait of the contemporary family, through an engrossing story.
Miller reveals in the Foreword that it took her six years to write Monogamy and that though she “sometimes despaired of ever finishing it, [she] loved living with these characters and their rich and complicated world.” Readers may wish it took six years to finish the book; settling into these characters and their lives is an enveloping experience. The writing is luscious and slow-paced, giving each scene and memory the space on the page it deserves.
Monogamy features a seemingly odd pairing, Graham, a bookseller who is larger than life in more ways than one,—size, personality—and Annie, a petite and more reserved fine arts photographer. They were drawn to each other from the moment they locked eyes thirty years before. Their devotion is the envy of their friends in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
When Graham dies unexpectedly, Annie discovers a terrible secret that forces her to reflect on the life they had built together, and if it truly was as meaningful as she had thought.
Richard Russo characterizes the novel wonderfully in his New York Times review:
“Monogamy” may not be everyone’s cup of tea. If you’re looking for spare, show-don’t-tell narration, brisk pacing and snappy dialogue spoken by easily comprehended characters, look elsewhere. There’s a lot of very good TV that operates on these principles. Miller operates differently, and the result is an old-fashioned, slow burn of a novel that allows readers to dream deeply. But be forewarned: Miller’s generosity requires a corresponding generosity on the part of readers. Unlike her protagonist, Miller knows exactly who she is and what she wants to take pictures of. As a result those pictures are full of depth and contrast and lush detail. They need to be studied, not glanced at. They belong in an art gallery, not on Instagram.
Sue Miller’s Top Ten List
1. The Children’s Bach by Helen Garner (1984)
2. The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald (1988)
3. Train Dreams by Denis Johnson (2011)
4. Binocular Vision: New and Selected Short Stories by Edith Pearlman (2011)
5. Lucy Gayheart by Willa Cather (1935).
6. McKay’s Bees by Thomas McMahon (1979)
7. The Little Disturbances of Man by Grace Paley (1959)
8. A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes (1929)
9. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1847)
10. Starting Out in the Evening by Brian Morton (1997)