While I Was Gone

Sue Miller, Author Knopf/Everyman's Library $24 (288p) ISBN 978-0-375-40112-1
The shadowy and inexorable nemesis of past secrets to a reclaimed life, and the inability even of those who are intimates to really know one another, are poignant themes in Miller's resonant fifth novel. Narrator Jo Becker, now a veterinarian married to a minister in a small Massachusetts town, was once a runaway bride who assumed a false name and lived with other dissaffected '60s bohemians in a group house in Cambridge. Her special friend in the house was sweet-spirited and generous Dana Jablonski, whose shocking--and unsolved--murder broke up the group and left Jo with unresolved questions about her own identity. She manages to ignore the memories of that time until, almost three decades later, one of the former housemates, Eli Mayhew, moves to her town. Eli, now a distinguished research scientist, provides a revelation that acts as the catalyst provoking Jo to face her guilt about her past behavior--and to act impulsively once again. Her moral conundrum occasions a heartrending change in her heretofore strong marriage and undermines her relationship with her three grown daughters. As usual, Miller (The Good Mother; Family Pictures) renders the details of quotidian domesticity with bedrock veracity and a sensitivity to minute calibrations of family dynamics, especially the nuances of sibling rivalry. But while the pacing, tone and measured exposition are handled with masterly skill, the way in which Jo's decision to make amends for her past rebounds on her present life seems staged and convoluted, since her husband and children seem to think that retribution for a murder should take second place to their own emotional needs. That cavil aside, Miller's narrative is a beautifully textured picture of the psychological tug of war between finding integrity as an individual and satisfying the demands of spouse, children and community. 150,000 first printing; Random House audio; BOMC selection; author tour. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1999
Release date: 01/01/1999
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Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-375-40563-1
Hardcover - 448 pages - 978-0-375-70571-7
Hardcover - 978-0-676-77526-6
Other - 978-0-676-77598-3
Hardcover - 978-0-7838-8481-3
Paperback - 978-0-676-77527-3
Hardcover - 978-0-676-54973-7
Paperback - 978-0-676-58148-5
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-345-43500-2
Paperback - 448 pages - 978-0-375-72801-3
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-375-41664-4
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-0-375-41178-6
Compact Disc - 978-0-375-41665-1
Mass Market Paperbound - 352 pages - 978-0-345-42074-9
Prebound-Other - 978-0-613-43398-3
Prebound-Other - 978-0-613-45855-9
Compact Disc - 978-0-7393-6571-7
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