Vermont, the present. On the heels of a divorce, Catherine Hubbard, Georgia's granddaughter, takes up residence in Georgia's old house. Sorting through her own affairs, Cath stumbles upon the true story of Georgia's life and marriage, and of the misunderstanding upon which she built a lasting love.
With the tales of these two women - one a country doctor's wife with a haunting past, the other a twice-divorced San Francisco schoolteacher casting about at midlife for answers to her future - Millers offers us a novel of astonishing richness and emotional depth. Linked by bitter disappointments, compromise, and powerful grace, the lives of Georgia and Cath begin to seem remarkably similar, despite their distinctly different times: two young girls, generations apart, motherless at nearly the same age, thrust into early adulthood, struggling with confusing bonds of attachment and guilt; both of them in marriages that are not what they seem, forced to make choices that call into question the very nature of intimacy, faithfulness, betrayal, and love.
©2001 Sue Miller; (P)2001 Random House, Inc., Random House Audio, a Division of Random House, Inc.
"Unfailingly artful...Miller has never written better." (The New York Times)
The World Below was among the most spirited, insightful, and engaging books I've read/heard in a long time. I found that the somewhat tired story of a tired mom, empty-nested and nearly joyless (save the phone calls and visits with her adult children) was made fresh again by Miller's thoughtful prose, layered plot, and generational shifts of narratorial perspective.
The main character is a 50-something woman who can't shake the feeling that she is in some way abnormal, partly stemming from a disappointing childhood abruptly shortened by the demands of a mentally ill mother. What's more, she feels she has fallen short of the expectations thrust upon her by two ex-husbands, and with believable self-doubt she ponders how in the world she had become "one of those women" with two failed marriages.
It happens that she must decide the fate of her grandparents' home. It is a family duty which affords her, if nothing else, something useful to do that is refreshingly removed from her current state of affairs. When she visits the estate- packed with dusty artifacts of family history-- she slowly begins piecing together the chronology of a mysterious and taboo period in her late grandmother's life. As she struggles to make sense of terse diary entries, she is both intrigued and somehow strengthened by what she learns of her grandmother's imperfect past.
For me, it was fascinating to glimpse the grandmother's life as a patient in an early 1900's sanitorium. Also interesting was the friendship which developed between the (present day) granddaughter and an elderly neighbor-- a chivalrous gentlemen who had been a diligent "caretaker" of the quaint New England home.
Miller is masterful in the art of character development; even minor characters are infused with personality and are strikingly believable. It is a thoughtful story of self-discovery and personal growth, of familial strengths and the flaws which must always coexist.
Enjoyed the complexities of this book and a glimpse into a past unspoken world similar to my own mother's. Although this is a work of fiction, I understand the research that must have gone into the descriptions of TB and life in a sanitarium in hope of recovery.
This is no Harlequin romance. Thank goodness!
I love Sue Miller and liked the book. However, some books are better read than listened to and I suspect this is one such book. It was well read, but very hard to get into and follow as an audio book. So, as an audio book it's just okay, but I suspect it would be really great on paper.
This is the worst book I've heard in a long time. The charaters barely developed, nothing happened, nothing grew, the story was lame, there was nothing interesting, and to top it off, the narrator has an annoying way of ending her sentences. I only listened to the whole thing because I kept hoping something would happen.
I found that the author got lost between memoir and story telling, with a lot of "philosophizing" about the state of mid-life the main character finds herself in. The story of her grandmother that is revealed in diary flashbacks was strong enough to redeem the listen and make it worthwhile. okay, but not amazing.
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