Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Book Talk: Sue Miller's The Senator's Wife

This evening I made my way to Brookline Booksmith, a local independent book store, to hear Sue Miller speak about and read from her new book, The Senator's Wife. We read one of Miller's less well known works for Book Club a while ago, The World Below, which prompted a lively discussion about the secrets we keep in families and across generations.

I hadn't heard much about her new novel before I set foot in the bookstore. I have to admit that I left intrigued enough to add the title to my soon-to-be-read list. (Currently I am trying to avoid purchasing books, opting to use my shiny new library card instead. Trying to be green. Waiting for my Kindle.) Even though I hadn't heard of Miller's new book, it has already been reviewed. She opened her presentation with a note of thanks for the emails she had received from readers contesting a particularly nasty review in the New York Times by Judith Warner called "Stand By Your Name." Miller didn't linger on the issue. She moved on to discuss her sources and her research for the novel.

Miller spoke about how she become interested in how divorced spouses sometimes return to one another in a time of illness or need to physically care for one another despite all that may have transgressed in their history. She was also interested in how the physical care for an infant shapes, indeed creates, a mother's love for her infant. These dynamics gave rise to her characters in the novel. Her research included reading the biography of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and What to Expect When You Are Expecting. She even made a trip to the local pharmacy and bought a pregnancy test, took it home and used it! (She was not pregnant.)

After these brief comments, she read a passage from the novel. She chose to read from a section in which the senator's wife returns to his side to help him campaign for a second term despite his horrific betrayal. She chooses to put on a public game face to do this thing for him. Miller reads quite well and it was easy to sit back and enjoy the story unfold.

Apparently there are twists, turns and a catch-your-breath (maybe slam it down) ending. I haven't read it, so never fear that I will give it away!

When I made my way home I switched on NPR and checked my pot roast (my first EVER) in the crock pot. It turned out to be a Sue Miller night--her taped interview with Tom Ashbrook was on air. Check it out: Sue Miller: "The Senator's Wife"

Sue Miller

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