cover image For Love

For Love

Sue Miller. HarperCollins Publishers, $23 (301pp) ISBN 978-0-06-017979-3

Perhaps because her work ( The Good Mother ; Family Pictures ) is seductively readable and sells so well, Miller has been underrated as a serious writer. Yet she tackles important themes and creates complex characters who must confront weaknesses in their own natures to come to terms with the conditions of their lives. This novel is her best to date, a forceful and resonant portrayal of a woman who is trying to escape from her past. Lottie and Cameron Reed and Elizabeth Harbour grew up in Cambridge, Mass., the Reeds in a ramshackle house across the street from the Harbour's elegant manse--a social chasm they became aware of as teenagers. Circumstances now bring them back together: her second marriage in jeopardy, Lottie has flown from Chicago to clean out her mother's possessions; self-absorbed, glamorous Elizabeth has fled a marital crisis; and Cameron, who has always adored Elizabeth, rekindles their old romance. The Reed siblings are emotionally dysfunctional, due in part to their impoverished childhoods as offspring of a father who was imprisoned for embezzlement and an alcoholic, abusive mother. Independent, willful but vulnerable, Lottie suffers from repressed rage and guilt, unconscious denial and an inability to give or accept love. A tragedy brings the various relationships into collision. Miller's writing is controlled, authoritative and charged with meaning; she excels in creating credibly flawed but appealing characters while exploring a larger question: Is love possible in the post-Freudian age? BOMC main selection. (Apr.)