Oprah Book Club® Selection, May 2000:
In her still startling debut, The Good Mother
, Sue Miller explored the premium we put on passion--and the terrible burden it places on a mother and child. Her fourth novel, While I Was Gone
, is another study in familial crime and punishment. But this time, her wife and good mother is accessory to more than emotional malfeasance. Jo Becker has everything a woman could desire: a loving spouse, contented children, and a nice dog or two. When her New England veterinary practice takes on a new client, however, her past comes back to haunt her. Long ago, it seems, Jo had escaped her family and identity for a commune in Cambridge. Her Aquarian illusions came to an abrupt, bloody end when one of her housemates was brutally murdered.
Now this unhappy era returns in the person of Eli Mayhew, who had been the odd man out in Jo's boho household. His appearance is both tantalizing and upsetting: "Inside, I slowed down. I felt numbed. I had two last patients, and then I told Beattie to go home, that I'd close up.... I refiled the last charts, sprayed and wiped the examining table. I reviewed my list of routine surgeries for Wednesday. All the while I was thinking of Eli Mayhew, and of Dana and Larry and Duncan and me, and our lives in the house. Of the horrible way it had all ended." Sue Miller's fine novel is a penetrating--and sensuous--portrait of a woman besieged by her conscience. While I Was Gone also demonstrates that in the face of distance and betrayal, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing indeed. --Winnie Wheaton
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"Riveting . . . The narrative pacing is masterly, building tension even in the most psychologically subtle passages. . . . While I Was Gone celebrate[s] what is impulsive in human nature."
The New York Times
"MILLER WEAVES HER THEMES OF SECRECY, BETRAYAL AND FORGIVENESS INTO A NARRATIVE THAT SHINES."
"FASCINATING . . . A NEW NOVEL OF GREAT INTEGRITY AND POWER . . . Despite having a loving husband, three vivacious daughters, a beautiful home in rural Massachusetts, and satisfaction in her work, Jo Becker's mind is invaded by a persistent restlessness. Then, an old roommate reappears to bring back Jo's memories of her early 20s. . . . Her obsession with that period of her life and with the crime that concluded it eventually estrange Jo from everything she holds dear, causing her to tell lie after lie as she is pulled closer to this man from her past--and to a horrible secret."
"MARVELOUS . . . POIGNANT . . . POWERFUL."
--Seattle Times/Post Intelligencer
"A BEAUTIFUL AND FRIGHTENING BOOK . . . MANY READERS WILL FIND IT DIFFICULT TO FORGET. . . . It swoops gracefully between the past and the present, between a woman's complex feelings about her husband and her equally complex fantasies--and fears--about another man. . . . I can think of few contemporary novelists--John Updike and Frederick Buechner are two others--who write so well about the trials of faith."
--The New York Times Book Review
"QUIETLY GRIPPING . . . Jo shines steadily as the flawed and thoroughly modern heroine. As in her 1986 novel, The Good Mother, Miller shows how impulses can fracture the family."