-- The New York Times Book Review
The Good Motherby Sue Miller
Recently divorced, Anna Dunlap had two passionate attachments: to her daughter, four-year-old Molly, and to her lover, Leo, the man who made her feel beautiful--and sexual--for the first time. They were a magical threesome--a little drunk on happiness and passion. Anna never expected the shocking charges that would threaten her new love, her new "family"...that would… See more details below
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Recently divorced, Anna Dunlap had two passionate attachments: to her daughter, four-year-old Molly, and to her lover, Leo, the man who made her feel beautiful--and sexual--for the first time. They were a magical threesome--a little drunk on happiness and passion. Anna never expected the shocking charges that would threaten her new love, her new "family"...that would force her to prove she was a good mother..
-- The New York Times Book Review
-- The New York Times
- Random House Publishing Group
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- 5.32(w) x 8.04(h) x 0.75(d)
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The Post Office in East Shelton reminded me of the one in the little town near my grandparents' summer home in Maine. In the days of that vanished post office, when I was small, my grandfather was usually the one to drive in and pick up the mail each day; but he almost always took one of us cousins along to row him across the lake, the first leg of the trip -- even though at that stage he was still a strong man, a better rower than any of us. We vied for the privilege, the treat of a town visit. Now, as I watched my daughter mount the wooden steps in East Shelton and cross the long narrow front porch -- her sandals slapping the boards noisily, her small legs flashing as she ran ahead of me, eager to be first through the door -- remembered the deep pleasure of entering that other post office of long ago; the same array of brass-trimmed letter boxes, the same worn wooden floors, nicked counters; the same grille across the opening where, when you rang the bell, the postmistress would appear from the similarly mysterious bowels of her house. If memory served me, and wasn't being distorted by the push of the present, the postmistress here even looked like that other one. She was seventyish, skinny and stern, with gray hair and glasses and skin so white, so floury, you half expected her touch would leave powdery prints on the envelopes she slid towards you under the grille.
Here my daughter would ask for the mail, because there was just our name to remember. In that other post office of my memory, after allowing me to ring the bell, my grandfather would greet the post mistress and then pronounce the three or four family names for whose members mailmight be waiting. It was the cousin's job, though, to distribute the mail after the long trip back to camp down the dirt road, across the lake.
It would be lunchtime, the family gathered on the wide screened porch around several tables laden with dishes, food. The lucky mail carrier of the day made the rounds, reading aloud the names on the envelopes; and people with letters were expected to open them then and there and read relevant bits of their correspondence to the assembled group. It amazes me now to think of that strange innocent intimacy. Did none of those aunts or uncles or cousins have an illicit lover, a shady business partner, a possible secret? Apparently not. The letters, mostly to the women, were full of news of invitations, dinners, luncheons, marriages, deaths, births, gifts.
When I pushed open the wooden screen door, the bell attached to its frame jingled faintly. Inside, the postmistress stood leaning forward behind her grille, listening to Molly. In her hands my daughter held a white envelope, but she didn't turn to me with it yet. She was telling the postmistress about the movie we were going to see. Though the old woman was unsmiling, Molly liked her. Her attention was absolute, and she'd given Molly several presents -- once a piece of hard candy, and another time a stack of change-of-address cards. She nodded to me as I approached the grille, and gestured to Molly to hand me my letter. Without interrupting her flow of conversation, Molly did. As soon as I really looked at the envelope, I knew it was about the divorce. There was something antiseptically formal about it, something which smacked of officialdom. I checked the return address quickly before I tucked the letter into my purse. Lloyd, Fine and Eagleston. Yes indeed.
I was in no rush to open it. It couldn't be anything urgent, since our court date hadn't even been set yet. Molly and I talked with the postmistress for a while, and then set out on what was by now a routine series of adventures for the afternoon. I forgot all about the letter. We explored the playground on the town green and went to a grainy, light-struck version of Peter Pan, which Molly seemed to like, but slept through half of. It wasn't until I reached into my purse to put my keys away at the Tip Top Cafe that I remembered the letter. I got it out and set it on the table, thinking I might read it while Molly ate. But she was in a talkative mood, it turned out, and all through dinner the envelope lay next to my silverware, rectangular and white, like an extra napkin; and I listened to my daughter.
She was kneeling on the patched maroon vinyl booth opposite me -- the crisscrosses of duct tape nearly matched its color -- playing with the little jukebox attached to the wall above us. When she turned the red plastic wheel on its top, the cards advertising the selections flipped around noisily, so many small revolving doors. She liked this, and was taking a long time to finish what was left of her meal. I didn't mind. Someone else in the Tip Top, someone with a penchant for country music, was feeding the jukebox, and I was enjoying its cheap emotionality. It reminded me of the music I had listened to in my teens -- full of the disasters of love and marriage, full of longing, of heartbreak and betrayal, accidental death. That's the way popular music had been in the late Fifties, early Sixties, before it got serious or political, or was allowed to be cynical about sex. And I had believed in that early cheap music, knowing nothing else about life. I had expected that these would be the consequences of love.
"What's this song?" Molly asked, pointing to a title behind the bulging plastic case. I leaned over and looked past her small finger. Her hands and breath smelled of the French fries she was eating.
"It's called 'In the Mood,'" I answered.The Good Mother. Copyright © by Sue Miller. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Meet the Author
Sue Miller is the bestselling author of While I Was Gone, The Distinguished Guest, For Love, Family Pictures, Inventing the Abbotts, and The Good Mother. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Date of Birth:
- November 29, 1943
- Place of Birth:
- Chicago, Illinois
- B.A., Radcliffe College, 1964; M.A.T., Wesleyan U., 1965; Ed.M., Harvard U., 1975; M.A. Boston U., 1980
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An intense book about love and loss. Sue Miller has written a wonderful story that doesn't end with the last page; thoughts of the characters continue long after the final sentence. Anna, the main character, is torn between being a mother, an individual, and a lover. Her situations and dialogue ring true for anyone who has ever loved and lost. I highly recommend this book!
I have noticed in having read three of Sue Miller's novels that she likes to be honest with the reader...incredibly honest, and this book is no different. Good story, good descriptions, real characters.