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Book Review: Monogamy by Sue Miller

Monogamy' by Sue Miller book review - The Washington Post

“Just, that we read fiction because it suggests that life has a shape, and we feel . . . consoled, I think he said, by that notion. Consoled to think that life isn’t just one damned thing after another. That it has sequence and consequence.” She smiled at Edith. “I think it was more or less the idea that fictional narrative made life seem to matter, that it pushed away the meaninglessness of death.”

A second marriage for both, Annie and Graham have been married for 30 years. Graham is an outgoing, charming big guy who owns a bookstore while Annie is the reserved one of the two and a photographer. They have a daughter, Sarah while Graham has a son, Lucas with his ex-wife, Frieda. Frieda and Graham are still on friendly terms and Annie, quite comfortable in her relationship with Graham, is also friends with Frieda.

When Graham dies suddenly, Annie’s world is rocked and she is plunged into deep grief. As she tries to adjust to her new life without Graham, she finds out that he had been unfaithful to her and she finds her grief journey derailed as she looks back on their years together and wonders how real it was.

This book was boring.

I am not opposed to character-driven books, which this book was, but this was just not compelling. I absolutely got the idea of what this book was meant to be. It was supposed to be a character’s introspective look into their life as they go through the journey of life’s complicated experiences – love, loss, friendships etc. Annie has a full life or so it seems but after Graham’s death, she questions if her life was full or if it was full because of Graham’s life. I think the life experiences and journey Annie went through were authentic and relatable.

“Love isn’t just what two people have together, it’s what two people make together, so of course, it’s never the same.”

Now the problem was the author tried to pack in ALL of the experiences in this story and it just ended up jumbled. Starting from the repressed memory that was awakened by Graham’s death, the complicated relationship with her daughter, wondering about her career and many more. Granted, she was going through inventory of her life, it was hard to keep track of what was Annie’s bone of contention of the day.

The book was mostly from Annie’s perspective but every now and then it would take a detour and be told from other people’s perspectives like Sarah, Lucas and Frieda. This would have been great if their sections were fully fleshed out but it was like we were told a bit and that was it. I wasn’t quite sure what the purpose of that was. And also, we don’t figure out the time period of the book until much later.

I gradually lost interest as the book went on. As mentioned earlier, I think it was all over the place and I didn’t know where to put my focus on. I will say that this actually worked in helping the reader understand how complicated Annie must have been feeling. You could feel the shift when Annie moved from sadness to anger. The last minute addition of a person from Annie’s past was the final thing that made me sure that I did not like this book.

As you have probably guessed, I don’t think I would recommend this book. I am surprised that I even finished this book because it very much felt like a boring conversation I could not get out of. If you do take the chance to read this book, you can’t say you haven’t been warned.

Taynement

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