The World Below

( 23 )

Overview

Maine, 1919. Georgia Rice, who has cared for her father and two siblings since her mother's death, is diagnosed, at nineteen, with tuberculosis and sent away to a sanitarium. Freed from the burdens of caretaking, she discovers a nearly lost world of youth and possibility; and meets the doomed young man who will become her lover. Vermont, the present. On the heels of a divorce, Catherine Hubbard, Georgia's granddaughter, takes up residence in Georgia's old house. Sorting through her own affairs, Cath stumbles upon...
See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
$12.19
BN.com price
(Save 18%)$15.00 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (162) from $1.99   
  • New (9) from $1.99   
  • Used (153) from $1.99   
World Below

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$11.99
BN.com price

Overview

Maine, 1919. Georgia Rice, who has cared for her father and two siblings since her mother's death, is diagnosed, at nineteen, with tuberculosis and sent away to a sanitarium. Freed from the burdens of caretaking, she discovers a nearly lost world of youth and possibility; and meets the doomed young man who will become her lover. Vermont, the present. On the heels of a divorce, Catherine Hubbard, Georgia's granddaughter, takes up residence in Georgia's old house. Sorting through her own affairs, Cath stumbles upon the true story of Georgia's life and marriage, and of the misunderstanding upon which she built a lasting love.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
This ambitious novel from the author of the Oprah's Book Club selection While I Was Gone is set into two time periods, post-WWI America and the present day. The World Below renders the disparate yet parallel stories of a grandmother and her granddaughter. In 1919, teenage Georgia Rice paradoxically receives a new lease on life when she is sent to a tuberculosis sanitarium. More than 80 years later, Catherine Hubbard, Georgia's granddaughter, moves into her grandmother's house following her own divorce. Each story is strengthened by the other.
From The Critics
The World Below takes its title from something the narrator, Catherine, sees on a childhood fishing expedition with her grandfather: an entire Vermont town submerged after a dam was built. As a divorced adult, Catherine returns to the area and discovers her grandmother's diaries in the house she has inherited, and she comes to associate the mystery and tranquillity of the town in the lake with the lives of her grandparents. Miller evokes the couple's small-town idyll—" the lilac and fidelity" of their lives together—with details so plain as to be absolutely convincing, such as Catherine's grandmother's practical lesson in "how to sew on a coat button tight enough to stay, loose enough to be workable." The author also captures the exceptional and the frightening, summing up the terror of a violent storm in a single detail: "A wooden chair came skidding drunkenly across the yard, stopped, then hurried on." Here are lives scrupulously observed and reflected upon, and the result is that we read with a kind of greedy rapture, captivated by the austerities and small pleasures of daily life as if they were the wonders of Aladdin.
—Penelope Mesic

Publishers Weekly
While Miller's gorgeous new novel, her sixth, works graceful variations of her perennial theme - our intimate betrayals - it also explores new terrain for the author: just what we can know of the past and of its influence on us. At the heart of Miller's story are two women, 52-year-old Catherine Hubbard and Catherine's now-deceased grandmother, Georgia Rice Holbrooke. At first blush, Catherine and Georgia couldn't seem more different. Catherine is a twice-divorced San Francisco schoolteacher, while her grandmother was a faithful country doctor's wife. But as the novel progresses, parallels emerge - the early deaths of their mothers, for instance - and their lives come to seem more deeply entwined. As the novel opens, Catherine and her brother have just inherited Georgia's old house in Vermont, and it is up to Catherine to figure out what to do with it. Still shell-shocked from her second divorce, Catherine decides to give life in Vermont a try, and, once settled, she discovers diaries and account books her grandmother kept, books that allow Catherine to reconstruct her grandmother's life. What Catherine discovers is a world she never imagined beneath the placid surface of Georgia's life. While she knew that Georgia was sent to a sanatorium for tuberculosis, she did not know the "san" changed Georgia's life. As Catherine sorts through her grandmother's life, she also sorts through her own: her mother's death, her two marriages, her boyfriends and her children. As readers have come to expect, Miller limns contemporary life in deft, sure strokes, with an unerring ear for the way parents and children talk; no one can parse a modern marriage as well as she can. But in this novel Miller'sspecial gift to readers is her rendering of Georgia's life, particularly the two love stories that mark it. Miller portrays the feverish period in the san - the intrigues, the romances, the very romance of taking a cure - vividly and sensuously. (Surely her research was rigorous.) Likewise, Miller captures the early, fragile years of Georgia's marriage with great poignancy, ever dividing our sympathies between Georgia and her husband. In the Holbrookes, Miller has created a marriage that survives despite its fault lines, a marriage that seems both modern and old-fashioned: recognizably fraught, yet enduring, the sort of marriage readers hunger to read about. Perhaps that's why this novel is so satisfying. Random House audio (ISBN 0-375-41993-4). (Oct.) Forecast: Miller's many, many (mostly female) fans will relish this dip into the past, released in a 200,000-copy first printing. A 20-city author tour, advertising on Oprah and word-of-mouth should attract plenty of new readers, too.
Library Journal
Miller (While I Was Gone) has a remarkable talent for paying scrupulous attention to the details of domestic life and nuances of personal relationships and then, with such seeming ease, relating them both truthfully and lovingly. Here she also shows the timelessness of the courses that human lives can take and the events that shape them. At 52, twice-divorced Cath Hubbard takes a sabbatical from her San Francisco teaching job to take possession of her grandparents' home. Contemplating starting a new life there in small-town Vermont, she uncovers truths about her beloved grandmother, Georgia Rice, on whom much of the story centers. Confined to a tuberculosis sanatorium before she was 20, Georgia found a different world with rules of its own where people behaved "scandalously," and her life was irrevocably changed. Cath finds parallels between her life and that of her Gran and insight into her grandparents' marriage that sheds light on her own failed ones, as events take the path of her own life out of her hands. A beautifully crafted and supremely satisfying work of fiction. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/01.] Michele Leber, Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Vintage Miller: a quiet, subtle story of longing, loss, and the compensations that, surprisingly, satisfy and endure."--Kirkus Reviews

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345440761
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/27/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,398,590
  • Product dimensions: 5.55 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Sue Miller was born in Chicago in 1943, the second of four children in an academic and ecclesiastical family. She grew up reading, writing, and dancing to 50's rhythm and blues in Hyde Park, and went to college at Harvard. She was married at twenty, shortly after she graduated, and held a series of odd jobs until her son Ben was born in 1968. She separated from her first husband in 1971, and for thirteen years was a single parent in Cambridge, Massachusetts, working in day care, taking in roomers, studying the piano, and writing with increasing focus.

Sue Miller’s first story was published in 1981. Since then, she has taught in various writing programs in the Boston area. In 1983-84 Sue Miller had a Bunting Fellowship at Radcliffe, which led her to the publication of her first novel, The Good Mother. She finished the novel in 1985, it was published 1986, and was quickly followed by a collection of short stories. In the 90’s she published Family Pictures, For Love, The Distinguished Guest, and While I Was Gone. She is currently writing a memoir about her father’s death from Alzheimer’s disease.

Sue Miller was married in 1985 to the writer Douglas Bauer. They are now divorced. After living in Boston for 12 years, Sue Miller returned this spring to Cambridge, which she refers to as the land of many bookstores.

From the Hardcover edition.

Biography

Since her iconic first novel, The Good Mother in 1986, Sue Miller has distinguished herself as one of our most elegant and widely celebrated chroniclers of family life, with a singular gift for laying bare the interior lives of her characters.

While not strictly speaking autobiographical, Miller's fiction is, nonetheless, shaped by her experiences. Born into an academic and ecclesiastical family, she grew up in Chicago's Hyde Park and went to college at Harvard. She was married at 20 and held down a series of odd jobs until her son Ben was born in 1968. She separated from her first husband in 1971, subsequently divorced, and for 13 years was a single parent in Cambridge, Massachusetts, working in day care, taking in roomers, and writing whenever she could.

In these early years, Miller's productivity was directly proportional to her ability to win grants and fellowships. An endowment in 1979 allowed her to enroll in the Creative Writing Program at Boston University. A few of her stories were accepted for publication, and she began teaching in the Boston area. Two additional grants in the 1980s enabled her to concentrate on writing fulltime. Published in 1986, her first novel became an international bestseller.

Since then, success has followed success. Two of Miller's books (The Good Mother and Inventing the Abbots) have been made into feature films; her 1990 novel Family Pictures was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award; Oprah Winfrey selected While I Was Gone for her popular Book Club; and in 2004, a first foray into nonfiction -- the poignant, intensely personal memoir The Story of My Father -- was widely praised for its narrative eloquence and character dramatization.

Miller is a distinguished practitioner of "domestic fiction," a time-honored genre stretching back to Jane Austen, Henry James, and Leo Tolstoy and honed to perfection by such modern literary luminaries as John Updike, Flannery O'Connor, and Richard Ford. A careful observer of quotidian detail, she stretches her novels across the canvas of home and hearth, creating extraordinary stories out of the quiet intimacies of marriage, family, and friendship. In an article written for the New York Times "Writers on Writing" series, she explains: "For me everyday life in the hands of a fine writer seems ... charged with meaning. When I write, I want to bring a sense of that charge, that meaning, to what may fairly be called the domestic."

Good To Know

Here are some fascinating outtakes from our interview with Sue Miller:
  • "I come from a long line of clergy. My father was an ordained minister in the Presbyterian church, though as I grew up, he was primarily an academic at several seminaries -- the University of Chicago, and then Princeton. Both my grandfathers were also ministers, and their fathers too. It goes back farther than that in a more sporadic way."

  • "I spent a year working as a cocktail waitress in a seedy bar just outside New Haven, Connecticut. Think high heels, mesh tights, and the concentrated smell of nicotine. Think of the possible connections of this fact to the first fact, above."

  • "I like northern California, where we've had a second home we're selling -- it's just too far away from Boston. I've had a garden there that has been a delight to create, as the plants are so different from those in New England, which is where I've done most of my gardening. I had to read up on them. I studied Italian gardens too -- the weather is very Mediterranean. I like weeding -- it's almost a form of meditation."

  • "I like little children. I loved working in daycare and talking to kids, learning how they form their ideas about the world's workings -- always intriguing, often funny. I try to have little children in my life, always."

  • "I want to make time to take piano lessons again. I did it for a while as an adult and enjoyed it.

  • "I like to cook and to have people over. I love talking with people over good food and wine. Conversation -- it's one of life's deepest pleasures."
  • Read More Show Less
      1. Hometown:
        Boston, Massachusetts
      1. Date of Birth:
        November 29, 1943
      2. Place of Birth:
        Chicago, Illinois
      1. Education:
        B.A., Radcliffe College, 1964; M.A.T., Wesleyan U., 1965; Ed.M., Harvard U., 1975; M.A. Boston U., 1980

    Read an Excerpt

    One

    Imagine it: a dry, cool day, the high-piled cumulus clouds moving slowly from northwest to southeast in the sky, their shadows following them across the hay fields yet to be cut for the last time this year. Down a narrow dirt road between the fields, a horse-drawn carriage, two old people wearing their worn Sunday clothes seated side by side in it, driving to town for their grown daughter's funeral. Neither of them spoke, though you could see, if you cared to look, that the old woman's lips were moving ceaselessly, silently repeating the same few phrases over and over. It was her intention, formed over the long weeks her daughter lay dying, to rescue her grandchildren from their situation, from their motherless house. To take all three of them back to the farm with her. She was rehearsing what she'd say, though she wasn't aware of her mouth forming the words, and her husband didn't notice.

    Imagine this too: later in the afternoon of the same long day, the two older grandchildren, the girls, laughing together. Laughing cruelly at the old woman, their grandmother, for her misguided idea.

    But perhaps it wasn't truly cruel. They were children, after all. As thoughtless as children usually are. What's more, they'd spent a good part of this strange day, the day of their mother's burial, laughing. Laughing nervously, perhaps with even a touch of hysteria, mostly because they didn't know what they ought to feel or think. Laughter was the easiest course. It was their way to ward off all the dark feelings waiting for them.

    They'd been up before dawn, long before their father and little brother were awake, long before their grandparents started in to town, almostgiddy with the number and variety of their chores. The meal after the church service was to be elaborate—deviled eggs, ham, scalloped potatoes, rolls, three kinds of jellied salad, pudding, and butter cookies—and they each had a list of things to do connected with it. They worked in the kitchen in their nightgowns, barefoot, as the soft gray light slowly filled the room. When the housekeeper, Mrs. Beston, arrived, she chased them upstairs to get dressed.

    They had ironed their own dresses the day before because Mrs. Beston was so busy. They hung now on hangers from the hook behind their bedroom door, smelling of starch, smelling just slightly still of the heat of the iron—that sweet, scorchy odor. As they pulled them on over their heads and then helped each other plait their long braids, they were convulsed, again and again, by lurches of laughter that felt as uncontrollable as sneezing. Sometimes it was wild, almost mean. It fed on itself. Just looking at each other, or at their sleepy little brother, Freddie, who'd come in in his nightshirt, his hair poking up strangely, to sit on their bed and watch them, could set it off.

    Maybe this explained it then—why, later in the day, when their father told them of their grandmother's notion, they couldn't stop themselves: why they gave way again to the same ragged hysteria. They laughed at her. They laughed at her and their grandfather's having clopped into town with horse and buggy; their father had had a motorcar forever, it seemed to them (it had been seven years). They laughed because she had only eight teeth left in her head and therefore smiled with her hand lifted to cover her mouth—they could both imitate this awkward, apologetic gesture perfectly. They laughed because she wore a ridiculous straw hat shaped like a soggy pancake, and an old-fashioned dress, the same old-fashioned dress she wore to all ceremonial events. They laughed because she had thought their father would so easily give them away.

    "They are still children," is what the old woman said to her son-in-law. "They need a childhood." The two of them had gone together into the parlor after they greeted each other, and when she told him it was private, what she had to say to him, he shut the sliding pocket doors. It had been such a long time since anyone had pulled them out that a thick gray stripe of dust evenly furred all their decorative molding.

    They sat not really looking at each other, the new widower and the dead woman's mother, and the grandmother forced herself to keep talking, to try to explain her plan to him. She wasn't a good talker, even in the easiest circumstances, and none of this was easy, of course. She hadn't imagined very much beyond her first statement ahead of time either. It was really her entire argument.

    What's more, her son-in-law had always made her shy. He was a large, almost handsome man with slicked-down hair, getting burly now as he approached forty-five. He was a salesman, of vulcanized rubber goods, and his way of dealing with the world came directly from that life: he wanted to amuse you, to charm you. When he was courting her daughter—Fanny, her name was—he had flirted with the grandmother, and this had made her tongue-tied and silent around him. Once, after she'd served him a blueberry cake he found especially delicious, he'd grabbed her and waltzed her around the scrubbed wooden floors of her farmhouse kitchen. This had so unnerved her—his energy and strength, and her helplessness against them—that she'd burst into shameful tears.

    That's what she felt like doing now, weeping, she was making such a mess of getting this said. It had seemed so clear to her as she moved through her solitary days while her daughter was dying and then since. The children needed her. They couldn't be left alone through the week any longer. The girls couldn't be asked to be so responsible—taking care of themselves and then their little brother too. It was too much. It was simply too much. They needed a home: someone to take care of them. She would offer to bring them to town on Fridays to be with him for the weekend. Or he could come out and stay with them on the farm. Oh, they'd be happy to have him!

    All this planning had kept the image of her daughter—wasted, curled on her side, rising to consciousness only to cry out in pain—from her mind; though she'd spoken to Fanny often, another version of Fanny, as she'd made her preparations: as she'd shaken out the extra bedding, as she'd set out the framed pictures of her in the unused rooms she'd made up for the children. "Oh my dear girl," she had whispered. "They will be fine, you'll see. They just need someone to tend to them for a change, that's all, and I am the one to do it."

    Her son-in-law waited a moment now, out of kindness and sorrow, before he answered. Then he cleared his throat and said that he saw things somewhat differently. His older daughter was almost sixteen, the younger thirteen—not really children at all. They were big, good girls. He needed their help, he said.

    Of course, this was exactly her point. She didn't press it, though. She sat silently and nodded, just once, furious at herself. She was giving up. This easily.

    And they were, he continued gently (very gently: he was fond of his mother-in-law, this cadaverously skinny and stern old woman), his children, after all.

    She stood up and turned away from him, but not before he saw her mouth pull down, grim and defeated.

    It had taken Fanny several years to die, of cancer, though no one had ever spoken the word in the house or in front of the children. And the truth was, as the grandmother would have admitted if she weren't wild with a grief that turned in like self-blame, that Fanny had been so unusual a young and then a nearly middle-aged woman that the girls had been in charge of the household long before anyone had guessed she was ill. So much for needing a childhood.

    The girls were named Georgia and Ada. Georgia, the older, could remember even in the years when her mother was well, coming home from school for lunch, a privilege of the town children, to find the house silent, Fanny still in her housecoat, lying on the sofa in the parlor reading, just as she had been when Georgia left. She'd look up, surprised and dizzy. Her face was round and full, with fat, childish lips and a baby's startled blue eyes: a pretty, oddly unformed-looking young woman. "Why, Georgia," she'd say, day after day. "How can you be back so soon?" And then she'd rise and ineffectually pat at her hair or her robe. Often she was barefoot, even in winter. "Well, we'd better go see what we can scratch up for you girls to eat, hadn't we?"

    It was a disgrace, really, though the children didn't care; they'd gotten used to it long before. In the kitchen, the breakfast dishes were still on the table, the grease congealed, the skin of the syrup pools lightly puckering with the unseen motion of the air. Upstairs, the beds would gape, unmade. When the baby, Freddie, came, Georgia's first task at noon would often be to take him up to the nursery to change his drooping diaper. "Oh, you pooper," she would say. "You big flop maker. Look what you've done now, you wicked boy." She would keep a steady stream of this insulting talk flowing, so that he would lie still in fascination and amusement and make her job easier, but also so that she wouldn't gag—she never got used to the piercing scent of ammonia, and worse, that she released each time she unpinned his sagging, weighted cloths.

    It was a little while after Freddie came—Georgia later thought it must have been then that her mother had first become ill—that they began to have regular help, finally. Mrs. Beston. Her name was Ellen, but no one ever called her that, not even their mother. Mrs. Beston, always and only, though their father sometimes called her Mrs. Best One when she wasn't around to hear it. She was tall and raw-boned and strong. Entirely without humor, and yet endlessly, bottomlessly cheerful. She arrived Monday mornings, just as their father was leaving for the week. "You must take these children in hand, Mrs. Beston," he'd say, pulling on his coat. "They're spoiled rotten. A daily whipping, I should think, and gruel for supper four nights a week at the minimum." The children, sitting on the stairs waiting to say goodbye, would look at each other with wicked grins.

    "Oh, Mister, don't say that!" Mrs. Beston would cry uneasily.

    "No, no, we count on you, Mrs. Beston. Lock them in their rooms. Send them to bed with no supper. Hang them up by their thumbs till they promise to obey."

    "Oh now, Mr. Rice!"

    "I'm off now, Mrs. Beston. By Friday, I have every confidence, you'll have instilled in them the fear of the Lord."

    But she didn't. She forgave them everything. Everyone, to her, was a poor dear, most of all their mother. Mrs. Rice, the poor dear. It was only slowly that Georgia came to understand that this was more than peculiarly expressed affection, that Mrs. Beston was referring to something specific, something sad and wrong about her mother.

    She was supposed to leave by three-thirty or four—she had her own family to get home to and cook for—but often she stayed after her chores were done, just to do a few pieces in the puzzle with them, just to play one more hand of Slapjack, one round of War. When she did leave, the house was clean, the laundry was done if it was laundry day, and—after their mother was really ill—there was always something prepared in the kitchen and the girls left with instructions on how to warm it and serve it. Though by then Fanny didn't have much appetite, Ada or Georgia would always take a tray to her room before they served themselves and Freddie at the kitchen table. And after dinner one of them would go to fetch the nearly untouched tray back down. Both of them were good at keeping track, both of them always knew whether she'd eaten more or less today than yesterday, though they never commented on this to each other.

    But they'd all gotten skilled by this time at never acknowledging what they knew, at pretending they didn't see what they saw. Everything conspired to encourage them in this—Mrs. Beston's determined good cheer, their father's strained, sometimes desperate gaiety, their neighbors' polite silence about what was happening in their house.

    And their mother: well, hadn't she always been this way? Indolent, half the time in bed anyway, reading or just daydreaming? Oh, she was sick, they certainly knew that, but they all expected—or pretended to expect, and then forgot they were pretending—that she'd be herself again by spring; or then by summer, when they'd drive over to Bucksport and have lobsters at the pound; or surely by fall, when they'd need to go shopping in Pittsfield for new school things.

    Late one afternoon the summer her mother lay dying, Georgia came out onto the screened porch off the kitchen. Mrs. Beston had gone for the day, but she'd left Fanny's sheets soaking in a galvanized metal tub of cold water. The blood had colored them evenly a beautiful shade of deep sherbet pink. They looked like snow-covered mountains at sunset. Caught by surprise at the sight, Georgia stopped short and gasped. Her heart was pounding. But then quickly her mind performed its familiar, useful trick: they were having chicken stew for dinner that night, and what she told herself was that the blood was of course from the slaughter of the chicken, somehow spilled onto these cloths.

    There was a world of knowledge that she had to ignore to hold on to this thought, starting with the fact that the chickens were slaughtered out behind the henhouse, but she was practiced at it, it was all accomplished in seconds. She started to whistle as loudly as she could, "Where E'er You Walk." She went outside into the overgrown yard where the lupines and lemon lilies were slowly being choked out by weeds, and began savagely to pluck them, singing now, ignoring the occasional cry of her mother, audible even through the windows she insisted stay shut.

    She wanted her father, Georgia thought, yanking at the flowers. She wanted him home right now. But he was out on the road for two more days, until Friday, driving his usual circuit of general stores and hardware stores in a radius of several hundred miles. He carried samples of his wares in his motorcar, and the car had come to have that rubbery odor permanently, an odor Georgia would find reassuring even into her old age...


    From the Audio CD (Unabridged) edition.

    Copyright 2001 by Sue Miller
    Read More Show Less

    Reading Group Guide

    1. Soon after Catherine arrives in Vermont, a real estate agent approaches her about showing the house to prospective buyers. The realtor compliments her on the house and adds that she is also enamored of the house's "story"-"in the family for generations, both your parents living here into their old age, and so forth." Catherine recoils. "The truth was I didn't want to think of any of us that way-my grandparents, my mother, me. Or to have our life here used as a selling point-all that pain and sorrow and joy-to make the house itself more appealing. We weren't the house's story, none of us." Catherine is objecting, in part, to the fact that the story is more complicated than the realtor could possibly know-more complicated than any of them could possibly know, in fact. What does she mean? How is this notion advanced throughout the novel?

    2. Miller writes that as Dr. Holbrooke examined nineteen-year-old Georgia he was "already beginning to think in terms of rescue." Yet in the same chapter he reflects on the arbitrariness of fate-of death in particular-and of the bewildering weight of his power in relation to both. How do you think Dr. Holbrooke squares his discomfort with his decision to have Georgia sent to the san? How do you think the author views his actions?

    3. Catherine speaks of rescue, too in the scene in which she first meets Joe. "What shall I say of Joe? That I felt rescued by him from something I hadn't been conscious of needing rescue from? That I trusted him? Both were true. I never considered that I might be rescuing him." How does this differ from Dr. Holbrook's rescue of Georgia? To what extent are all relationships, especially romantic ones, a form of rescue?

    4. As young women, both Cath and Georgia felt a deep sense of shame; both of them, early on , came to believe that they were failures. Why? Discuss the parallels in their lives.

    5. Shortly after receiving the news that her father is to be remarried, Georgia cuts her hair. Is this transformation an act of empowerment or of self-punishment? "She unpinned her hair and let it down-your crowning glory her mother had called it-and watched as the long bolts of it slipped and whispered to the floor? What is Georgia rejecting? What is she embracing?

    6. In chapter eight, Catherine invites Samuel Eliasson back to her house, and they have a conversation about the past. Eliasson, a historian, says that he views himself as an anthropologist, of sorts; he compares the past to "another culture, another country." What does he mean? And how is this notion of the past reflected in the novel as a whole?

    7. In this same conversation, Samuel describes his wife's religious devotion as "the central invisible fact of her life." He continues, "You could write her life's story without including it if you didn't know specifically about it, it was simply underneath everything. " How does this idea of a "central invisible fact" come into play elsewhere in the novel? What is the central invisible fact of Georgia's life? Of Dr. Holbrooke's? Of Catherine's? What is the central invisible fact of your own?

    8. The novel takes its name from the image of a town submerged beneath the surface of a lake. Catherine glimpses this world one day while fishing on the lake with her grandfather: "I looked down again. It came and went under the moving water, the sense of what was there. There were long moments when I couldn't quite get it, when it seemed I must have imagined it. But then there it was again, sad and mysterious. Grand, somehow. Grand, because it was gone forever but still visible, still imaginable, below us." Discuss this image in relation to the novel's themes. How has the author woven it into the novel's narrative and the narrative of its individual characters? What is the "World Below"?

    9. Catherine expresses a desire to begin life anew at various points throughout the novel-when she arrives with her young children on her grandparents' doorstep, after seperating from her first husband; when she arrives in Vermont to make a decision about whether to sell the house or stay on; when, as a teengager, she is offered the chance to live with Rue in Paris for a summer. Each of these moments offers her, or seems to offer her, the possibility of inventing a new self. Is this kind of self-invention possible? Discuss the author's views on identity.

    10. Discuss the question above in relation to Georgia's life. Look, in particular, at Georgia's thoughts after leaving the san, and at her first conversation with Dr. Holbrooke at her father's wedding. To what extent is it possible for other people to act as a bridge between our past and future selves?

    11. In chapter eleven, Georgia and Dr. Holbrooke have a heated argument in which it unfolds that their marriage has been built on a misunderstanding. Can true love ever emerge out of a falsehood, even an accidental one? How does the author shape our perception of their marriage through the course of the book?

    12. During Georgia's argument with Dr. Holbrooke it is also revealed that Georgia did not have TB at the time she was sent to the san, and that Dr. Holbrooke misled her about the condition of her lungs. Dr. Holbrooke claims that he was justified in lying to her because her time at the san was beneficial-she rested, she gained strength, she was relieved of the daily burdens of caring for her family. "But it changed my life!" Georgia cries in response. What is your view of Dr. Holbrooke's decision to have her sent away? Was this an act of mercy, or a misuse of power, or both? Do we have the right to change one another's lives?

    Read More Show Less

    Customer Reviews

    Average Rating 4
    ( 23 )
    Rating Distribution

    5 Star

    (8)

    4 Star

    (9)

    3 Star

    (4)

    2 Star

    (0)

    1 Star

    (2)

    Your Rating:

    Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

    Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

    Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

    Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

    We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

    What to exclude from your review:

    Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

    Reviews should not contain any of the following:

    • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
    • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
    • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
    • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
    • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
    • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
    • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

    Reminder:

    • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
    • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
    • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
    Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

    Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

    Create a Pen Name

    Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

     
    Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

    Continue Anonymously
    See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
    • Posted September 14, 2010

      more from this reviewer

      The Failure of The World Below

      Doomed romances and relationships, numerous deaths and family secrets, and stories from the past and present set the standards for a great book. Sue Miller's book, The World Below includes all characteristics, and starts off with potential to be a great read. However, a few pages in leaves readers wondering how it could be a New York Times Notable Book and a National Bestseller. With weak characters, predictable plot, and awkward relationships, The World Below is a huge letdown.

      Cat Hubbard, two-time divorcee, escapes across country in the dead of winter to rural Vermont. Staying in the home of her grandparents and where she grew up, Cat tries to find herself again. While rummaging through the attic, she stumbles upon her grandmother's journals. The book then rotates between present day, Cat's childhood, and her grandmother's life; each time period as boring and forgettable as the next.

      50-year-old Cat, trying to remember who she used to be, remains in Vermont for several months until her pregnant, middle-aged daughter goes into labor. Cat zooms back to California leaving multiple strings hanging. An awkward and unfit relationship with 70-year-old historian, Samuel, and rediscovering herself included.

      Extremely drug out and depthless, Sue Miller's book falls flat. Every part is feeble and forgettable; characters, plot, and setting. The book deserves one out of five stars, maybe. All 275 pages creep sluggishly by, causing one to find better things to do; chores, laundry, or even homework.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted April 21, 2014

      Brittney

      A female blonde babe walks in. She is bi.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted April 21, 2014

      Selena

      She walks in. "I want to get sold."

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted April 21, 2014

      Mia

      "I want to stay and help."

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted April 20, 2014

      War torn

      Im sending mia in

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted April 21, 2014

      Ivy

      Shrugged.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted April 21, 2014

      Ariel

      It's your choice.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted January 18, 2013

      Intresting and thoughtful

      Intresting book and introspective

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Posted October 25, 2012

      Plot moves along though characters need more for readers to care

      Plot moves along though characters need more for readers to care deeply about. I hope there is a sequel, involving Jessie and Samuel.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted January 10, 2003

      WILL RECOMMEND THIS ONE

      I liked the author's writing style and the development of the characters. I will recommend this one.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted December 27, 2002

      A Great Read

      Another great book by Sue Miller. I loved the storyline of Georgia and seeing how it would have been in my own grandmother's day. I too was sent to my grandparents every summer for a number of years and this book put a lot of things into perspective for me. I thought it was very interesting. My only complaint is that I felt there wasn't really an "exciting climax". That felt sort of like a let down. But Miller's writing is superb and it was a great story.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted September 26, 2002

      Good book

      This is a good book, definitely worth the read. If you like it, read Tending Roses by Lisa Wingate, which got five stars from me.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted October 7, 2002

      Solving Family Mysteries

      I love the way the author attempts to understand the life/times of her grandmother. As the book developed, I found myself just as excited as the narrator was to fill in some of the blanks of her grandmother's life. History is like this--murky and indefinite. A good read.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted December 5, 2010

      No text was provided for this review.

    • Anonymous

      Posted September 10, 2010

      No text was provided for this review.

    • Anonymous

      Posted June 7, 2011

      No text was provided for this review.

    • Anonymous

      Posted January 2, 2011

      No text was provided for this review.

    • Anonymous

      Posted March 10, 2011

      No text was provided for this review.

    • Anonymous

      Posted April 2, 2011

      No text was provided for this review.

    • Anonymous

      Posted December 31, 2009

      No text was provided for this review.

    See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)