Monday, December 29, 2008

While I Was Gone

While trapped in my house during the great snow storm of ’08, I had lots of time to read. AND NO GOOD BOOKS! On a warm, sunny day I enjoy the walk to Half Price Books from my house. But in snowy, wet, windy weather I was totally disinterested in marching the 2 miles on packed, icy snow covered sidewalks. Let alone the uphill 2 mile walk back home. Therefore, I was stuck reading the scraps of literature I already had around the house when the snowfall began. One such scrap was While I Was Gone by Sue Miller. I had started it a few weeks earlier but lost interest. But after 3 days of being snowed in with terrible TV options, I decided I couldn’t afford to be fussy any longer. And I didn’t actually hate it. I didn’t even really dislike it. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I loved it, but I did like it.

While I Was Gone is about a woman named Joey. She’s in her early fifties with three grown children and a great husband. When an old roommate from college reappears, it gets her all rattled and distracted because, when they lived together in the 1960’s (with a bunch of other hippies), some horrible thing happened. Joey doesn’t feel like she has resolution on this horrible happening and thinks that the reappearance of Eli might be the answer. She makes a bunch of shitty decisions as a result of her semi-obsession with Eli's reappearance and eventually, things get creeeeepy.

Sue’s writing is very sophisticated, but I couldn’t help but think that I would have enjoyed the book more if I was my Mom. Or at least over the age of 50. The story is obviously well crafted, but I had a hard time getting past the fact that I didn’t really like the narrator. I didn’t hate Joey, but she wasn’t particularly likable either. The relationships are realistically complex and the descriptions of her marriage were really painful and yet beautifully truthful. I just had a hard time really investing in her as a character. I’d be interested in hearing from any of you who may have read Sue Miller – does she have any other books you’d recommend above While I Was Gone? And also? Why is it called While I Was Gone? I never really figured that out, which bugged. Part of my lack of enthusiasm about this book may be a result of my recent affliction with Reading ADD, but I’m not sure. Or maybe it was because it had an Oprah's book club sticker on it.


trish said...

I loved The Senator's Wife, but it's the only thing by Sue Miller I've ever read.

tib said...

Actually a book I have read. I do recall it being a fast read, and I am with you, I didn't have much sympathy for Joey. It was weird and I always pondered the title too, maybe it have to do with what happened while she was gone from the house while she was in college... who freakin' knows. Damn Oprah book club stickers.

Bybee said...

I've read a couple of her novels, but they just don't float my boat and I'm closer to your mom's age group.

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raych said...

Man, I am ALWAYS thinking things like that! I would have loved this book if I were a teenage girl, I would have loved this book if I were a frat-boy, I would have loved this book if I were an illiterate ass, etc.