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Inventing the Abbots and Other Stories Paperback – January 8, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Later Printing edition (January 8, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060929979
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060929978
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,283,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this collection of 11 stories, Miller exhibits the same insight into character and gift for describing contemporary relationships evidenced in The Good Mother. "The Birds and the Bees" and "Ernest" express the same subtle knowledge of a child's sensibilities and fears displayed in that novel. The mothers in "Leaving Home" and the title story learn that they cannot protect their children from the hurts of the world. No happy marriages exist here (the only one of long duration, in "Appropriate Affect,"is revealed as a sham), and the protagonists of most of the stories are individuals trying but failing to connect emotionally in a society where "all the rules have changed." In "Travel" and "Slides," men take photos of their lovers naked, pictures which survive the breakup of their relationships to provide a record of disillusionment and pain. These themes come together in the best of the tales, "The Quality of Life," which movingly articulates the stresses of trying to behave responsibly as a parent while satisfying the need for sexual compatibility. Though Miller has sympathy for all her characters, her moral vision is clear. 35,000 first printing; $40,000 ad/promo; BOMC alternate; author tour.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This collection follows the author's impressive debut, The Good Mother ( LJ 5/15/86). In the title story a young man tells the absorbing tale of his elder brother's involvement with three sisters of small-town social prominence. Other stories also reflect Miller's intense preoccupation with the delicacy of relationships among parents, children, wives and husbands, the married and divorced, lovers. "The Quality of Life" depicts emotional complexities within a family marked by separations and rivalries. "Tyler and Brina," "Travel," and "Expensive Gifts" all concern the tentative dependence and isolation of women, their strengths, the needines of their men. Readers of Miller's novel will again appreciate her fastidiousness and clarity, her sobering vision of the moral dilemmas of modern middle-class life. Mary Soete, San Diego P.L., Cal.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

If you prefer a well-structured plot and an ending that packs a punch, you will only be disappointed.
e. verrillo
The details she brings to her characters make every story in this book so heartfelt and poignant...It is a must-read for every serious lover of literature!
"high_maintenance_girl"
This book is a collection of short stories by the Sue Miller, the author of The Good Mother: A Novel andThe Senator's Wife (Vintage Contemporaries).
Bonnie Brody

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By doctor_beth #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
With her stories of infidelity, divorce, and sexual harassment/assault, author Sue Miller delves into the darker side of love and relationships. In the title story of this book, she describes the desperate attempts of a boy from "the wrong side of the tracks" to reinvent himself as part of a local wealthy family, the Abbotts. He dates the three Abbott daughters in turn, with each relationship ending in a bigger disaster than the last one. (Fans of the movie, take note: this is NOT a love story, and the role of the younger brother--Joaquim Phoenix in the movie--is little more than that of the story's narrator here.) The next two stories, "Tyler and Brina," and "Appropriate Affect," address both the obvious and the more hidden costs of infidelity. Explicit photographs play a role in "Slides" and "Travel," while the stories "What Ernest Says," "Calling," and "The Birds and the Bees" cover even darker sexual subjects. The stories, while engrossing, are somewhat unpolished: the first story, "Inventing the Abbotts," could have easily been a novel on its own, and the final story, "The Quality of Life," seems to end abruptly and awkwardly. At 180 pages, however, this book is a quick read, and the reader is unlikely to feel that his or her time has been wasted.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By "high_maintenance_girl" on September 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
I bought this book soon after watching the movie that shares its name...And I just have to say that the movie, "Inventing the Abbots", is not near as compelling nor as convincing as Miller's version. Not to mention, that the remaining collection of stories in her book are all astounding! The details she brings to her characters make every story in this book so heartfelt and poignant...It is a must-read for every serious lover of literature! For Miller is a novelist that brings these characters to life with such candor, and explores the frailty of human nature and the darkness that lies somewhere in us all.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By tignor on March 1, 2010
Format: Paperback
I quite liked this. I put this sentence first because I was quite surprised at the negative reviews on this amazon.com page--the stories were quite entertaining, the characters and settings real, the plots weren't too complex. Yes, to some people that may be boring, but gracious, these stories are character studies. Having read one too many (that is, one and a half) Nicholas Sparks books, where the characters are all rugged but gorgeous, independently wealthy, gourmet cooks and flat, flat, flat--how delightful to read about a man in love with a woman who has a 'half frozen face' and can't contain his love to one person, no matter how much he loves her. True and real, and her words are sheer poetry. In "Calling," for instance, is this : She poured herself another cup of coffee and sat down at the table opposite him. She looked out of the apartment window at the dead geranium on her fire escape. A sparrow stood on the rim of the pot and puffed itself up.

I just love that. The geranium is dead. The sparrow "puffed itself up." I'm tired of reading these bestseller novels where you only read what happens and not what characters think and feel. He sat down. She sat down. He wore a grey shirt... blah blah blah. Everything is pretty and wrapped up in a nice little package, and usually coffee and beer are described in words that are not coffee and beer but "brew" and "hot liquid," or the pronunciation of a name is slipped into the book, usually 70 pages in when you've established it in your head already. Sue Miller writes about normal people with amazing insight.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Brody TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 3, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book is a collection of short stories by the Sue Miller, the author of The Good Mother: A Novel andThe Senator's Wife (Vintage Contemporaries).

There is a very pervasive sexual theme throughout this book - - on the sexuality present in most aspects of our banal, everyday existence. Oftentimes, our motives are pervaded by sexuality when we're least aware of its presence. Good vs. bad motives - - points of view - - shades of gray - - how our sexuality influences what we do - - how others see us - - These are the shared themes of these stories.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By e. verrillo on June 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
Miller is a wonderful writer. Her prose is fluid, her characters believable, and her themes--jealousy, loss, estrangement--are eternal. But, judging from the uneven quality of these stories, it is clear that the short story is not Miller's ideal medium.

The two best stories in this collection were the title story, Inventing the Abbotts, and Appropriate Affect. These were the stories that really shone. They were tightly-structured, played out their themes to the end, and neatly resolved a central conflict. In the manner of all good short stories, these two ended with a nearly audible "click." The rest of the stories, while thematically interesting, tended to fizzle rather than click. (Miller seems to have particular problems with stories involving sexual themes. These just ground to an unceremonious halt, as if Miller herself didn't know what she was trying to say.)

Miller definitely deserves accolades for her writing, and for her honest look at the darker side of human relationships. If these are qualities you admire in an author, then this collection will appeal to you. If you prefer a well-structured plot and an ending that packs a punch, you will only be disappointed.
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