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The Senator's Wife (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – January 6, 2009


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More from Sue Miller
Sue Miller gracefully addresses her perennial theme--our intimate betrayals--in her subtle and satisfying novels. Visit Amazon's Sue Miller Page.

Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307276694
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307276698
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (162 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bestselling author Miller (The Good Mother; When I Was Gone) returns with a rich, emotionally urgent novel of two women at opposite stages of life who face parallel dilemmas. Meri, the young, sexy wife of a charismatic professor, occupies one wing of a New England house with her husband. An unexpected pregnancy forces her to reassess her marriage and her childhood of neglect. Delia, her elegant neighbor in the opposite wing, is the long-suffering wife of a notoriously philandering retired senator. The couple have stayed together for his career and still share an occasional, deeply intense tryst. The women's routines continue on either side of the wall that divides their homes, and the two begin to flit back and forth across the porch and into each others physical and psychological spaces. A steady tension builds to a bruising denouement. The clash, predicated on Delia's husband's compulsive behavior and on Meri's lack of boundaries, feels too preordained. But Miller's incisive portrait of the complex inner lives of her characters and her sharp manner of taking them through conflicts make for an intense read. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine

In her latest novel, Sue Miller contemplates wifehood from the perspective of two women—one at the start of her marriage, the other reconciled to the direction her relationship has taken over the decades yet nonetheless hopeful for change. In capturing their dreams, fears, and disappointments, Miler paints a devastating, realistic, and unsentimental portrait of both Meri and Delia. What to make of the two negative reviews? They seemed complete opposites: the Los Angeles Times enjoyed the book until the twist at the end, whereas the New York Times Book Review admired only the climax. Yes, the novel is a domestic drama, with its compare-and-contrast marriage storylines, a tone that can be overly earnest, and protagonists that sometimes lack self-awareness. But there is good insight into character here, and the story’s masterful plot twist—a final betrayal—reveals Miller’s ample talents as a storyteller.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

The ending was both shocking and greatly disturbing and filled with too much detail.
Andi Hall
It is not really about the senator's wife, but her neighbor Meri, who is strange and has mostly unkind thoughts about everyone including her husband and son.
Amazon Customer
It is too bad she had nothing to say other than telling us more about things than we care to know and in nauseating detail.
Margie Read

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 52 people found the following review helpful By MJS on February 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I wanted to like this book more than I actually did. I like Sue Miller's writing and the topic (why does a political wife stay with a philandering husband?) is interesting. The title character, Delia Naughton, is interesting if opaque. So what's the problem?

It's the other heroine of the book, Meri. She starts off seeming ungrounded and unanchored. Midway through the book she turns creepy. By the end of the book she's so self-absorbed she takes part in one of the biggest trainwreck moments I've read in a long, long time. Yet in the epilogue she's happy as a clam, justifying her actions as "an act of love."

I kept hoping that Meri's husband would start cheating on her and we'd have Delia and Meri providing a generational mirror of how women react to infidelity. That would have been a cliche but Miller might have made it interesting. It also would have forced Meri to deal with her marriage in terms of something other than sex and passive-agressive withdrawal.

Weirdly, the most self-aware person in the book seems to be the Senator himself. He admits that he's not capable of staying faithful to his wife even when he wants to be. Delia convinces herself she's faced this about her husband but, tragically, she has not.
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Format: Hardcover
The newly-married woman. The senator's wife. A generation of differences. In 1993, when Meri Fowler and her husband, Nathan, move into the other half of a stately home owned by Delia Naughton, wife of former senator Tom Naughton, a Washington mover and shaker and beltway roué who now visits his wife only sporadically, Meri is fascinated by the older Delia. Without examining her reasons, Meri hopes for an intimacy that seems always out of reach, especially as Delia travels frequently to visit her grown children and to a secluded Paris apartment. It is Nathan who is curious about the senator, hoping in vain for a meeting, which fails to occur but for a brief time one holiday. Life settles into routine until Meri learns she is pregnant, her world suddenly shifting from an engaging job at a local radio station to the tunnel-vision of new motherhood, all-consuming days of feeding, changing, feeding, sleeplessness a further strain on a once carefree marriage.

But Delia is the centerpiece of Miller's engaging novel, a self-contained woman who has learned at last to make peace with an untrustworthy husband and the shattering of a dream, his peccadilloes finally driving a wedge into their marriage. Delia survives, healing with time and circumstance, the façade of gentility intact. And Delia's natural generosity toward Meri is not significant, at least to the senator's wife, caught up in her own emotions as the ground shifts once more in her relationship with Tom, a long-hoped for contretemps shimmering on the horizon.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Michelaneous by Michele on February 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I've read enough work by Sue Miller to say with complete confidence that she's a brilliant writer, and a master at character development. The Senator's Wife is a gray tale of two couples, neighbors sharing an east coast duplex in an upscale neighborhood. In the story, Miller brings in the focus so tightly, that it feels a little voyeuristic prying into the everyday thoughts, feelings and actions of these characters. Said characters are ordinary, but at the same time fascinating because of their mundane circumstances. Given this, one may wonder how the author manages to keep the reader interested for 306 pages. Again, I attribute it to the brilliant writing.

Alternating chapters from the perspectives of Delia, a grandmother who is the "Senator's Wife," and Meri, a woman in her mid-30s who is fascinated by the quiet glamour of Delia, move the story from 1993 to present day. Meri and her husband Nathan, a college professor, move to the split house. The decision to purchase their portion of the dwelling is based on his fascination with Delia's husband, a notorious senator, now retired. The senator is mysterious and although he is rarely seen, he is very much a part of the story. Delia's excerpts explain their complicated relationship in detail. But the thrust of the story centers on Meri's fascination with Delia, hence the title, and how the relationship between the women leads to the climax.

The Senator's Wife is a fundamental look at life. It's a look at young marriage and an aged marriage lived side-by-side. It's a look at long process of raising children from birth to middle age, and at finding one's place as a caregiver. It's not action-packed or even very exciting, but for fans of Sue Miller and for those readers who appreciate strong character development, I do recommend reading this novel.

Michele Cozzens is the author of It's Not Your Mother's Bridge Club.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ted Dintersmith on January 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
I'm a big fan of Sue Miller's work, and eagerly dove into "The Senator's Wife." Her prose, as always, is immaculate and it was a joy to turn each page. In the end, though, I found the work disappointing, and can't share the enthusiasm of most of the other reviewers.

For starters, the main character is a woman named Meri, who behaves reprehensibly throughout the book. At the end, though, we're supposed to believe she somehow matured into awonderful, loving mother. There were far too many undotted i's and uncrossed t's for me to join the author in making this leap. And the Senator and his wife behaved as twin orbiting death stars, not as real people making understandable decisions.

At the end of the book, I felt a huge sense of missed opportunity for the novel. Such a great author, but such a frustrating plot line, with main characters that seemed to revel in self-destructive behavior. In the end, I concluded they were stuck in a story where they made a series of implausibly-dumb life decisions, and was glad to put these characters back on the bookshelf.
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