A brilliantly insightful novel, engrossing and haunting, about marriage, love, family, happiness and sorrow, from New York Times bestselling author Sue Miller.
Here is Graham, and here is Annie; here they are in marriage, in late middle age, in comfort. Mismatched, and yet so well matched. They have been married for nearly thirty years. A golden couple, their seemingly effortless devotion has long been the envy of their circle of friends and acquaintances.
Graham is a bookseller, a big, gregarious man with large appetites – curious, eager to please, a lover of life, and the convivial host of frequent, lively parties at his and Annie’s comfortable house in Cambridge. Annie, more reserved and introspective, is a photographer. She is about to have her first gallery show after a six-year lull and is worried that the best years of her career may be behind her. They have two adult children: Lucas, Graham’s son with his first wife, Frieda, works in New York. Annie and Graham’s daughter, Sarah, lives in San Francisco. Though Frieda is an integral part of this far-flung, loving family, Annie feels confident in the knowledge that she is Graham’s last and greatest love.
When Graham suddenly dies—this man whose enormous presence has seemed to dominate their lives together—Annie is lost. What is the point of going on, she wonders, without him?
Then, while she is still mourning him intensely, she discovers that Graham had been unfaithful to her, and she spirals into darkness; wondering if she ever truly knew the man who loved her.
Monogamy is a novel about marriage, but more broadly, relationships, family, secrets and love. It is a second marriage for both Annie and Graham, and many of us can relate to the complex layers that go with that. Miller’s depiction of Annie’s grief is especially moving, from the moment Graham dies, to discovering his lover crying in his study after the memorial service: pure grief to rage. It is intelligent and eloquent and confirms Sue Miller’s place among the greatest writers at work in America today. Her polished, thoughtful prose inspired me as both a writer and a reader. The characters and their relationships are finely crafted, with Miller expertly weaving together the big questions with the beautifully depicted mundane.
Monogamy is also a novel for booklovers, with Graham’s bookshop and literary references throughout. One of the characters in Monogamy says that we read fiction “because it suggests that life has a shape and we feel… consoled.” It’s exactly how I felt reading this. I was deeply moved by the complexity and the humanity in this story. Monogamy is special, from its exquisite cover, to Sue Miller’s sublime writing, it never puts a foot wrong.