I put this book on my wishlist when I read Lit Chick’s review. Alas, BookMooch doesn’t get all the books I want, so when I finally resorted to using my local library (*gasp* I know! Shocking!), The Senator’s Wife was one of the first books I put on hold.
This is the first book I’ve read by Sue Miller, and I couldn’t read fast enough. This book was SO GOOD.
The Senator’s Wife is about two women and the marriages they’re in: Meri, newly married to Nate, with whom she had a very short courtship, and who is extremely immature; and Delia, separated from but still married to the famous senator, Tom Naughton, who has had affair after affair after affair.
Meri and Nate move in next to Delia, thinking that Tom lives there as well, but are disappointed to find out that while Delia and Tom are still married, they no longer live together and Tom rarely visits. A friendship develops between Meri and Delia, though Meri is often trying to pry personal information out of Delia that she doesn’t care to share.
There’s much I can’t say about this book as it would give away key plot points, so let me instead talk about what I thought.
The book alternates viewpoints between Meri and Delia, all told in third person, which is extremely gratifying to those of us who wish to be omniscient. During the story, you learn some of Delia’s history, getting to know Delia as a person based on that history. Meri, on the other hand, we learn about in the present: from the way she deals with her husband, to poking around in Delia’s house while housesitting, to having a hard time bonding with her newborn.
One of the persistent questions of the book is, Why stay with someone who can’t stay faithful? I think the author did an excellent job of probing this topic. I can’t help but remember a friend of mine telling me that if her husband had cheated on her before they’d had children, she would have left him in a heart beat. But after they had children, well, it just wasn’t a simple situation anymore. Delia by no means condones her husband’s actions, but she is able to come to a resolution that is satisfactory for herself, though baffling to her children and outsiders.
Both Meri and Delia are fascinating characters, not only as individuals, but the way they behave in their respective marriages.
While I would classify this novel as a character study, it never felt slow, due in large part to the interesting characters. The reader learns and should hopefully understand on some level why Delia would stay with a filanderer, even if that’s not what they would do themselves. This, to me, is what great writing (and reading!) is about: going outside of yourself into a situation you might not understand based on your own circumstances, but once the story is told, being able to understand from the character’s viewpoint.
This would make a great book club selection, and I’ll definitely be recommending it to my own book club.
Rating: 93 out of 100
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