Keeping secrets.

December 28, 2006

I just finished reading While I was Gone, by Susan Miller. Quick outline of plot: a woman in her 50’s is happily married with 3 grown children, when she runs into someone from her bohemian, wildish past. She goes through a sense of unease as she’s reminded of this past and as she finds herself attracted to this man from it.

The central theme of the book seems to be the self-examination of one’s life and how your actions impact others. What I got from the story was that sometimes a secret really should be kept a secret. The main character, Jo, ends up confessing her attraction to the man from her past to her husband. She did not have a physical affair with him–but she did think about doing so…in detail.

I had a hard time liking Jo. I found her to be self-indulgent, even cruel in her attempts to be honest with her husband. Is it virtuous to share these kinds of feelings with your significant other? I don’t think it is–not when the outcome is so much pain, distrust, disappointment. It seems to me that the burden of the secret is the price the unfaithful should have to bear for their crime.  To unburden oneself by laying it on an innocent party is just, well, rotton.

Susan Miller does write beautifully. At one point, she writes a sermon for one of the characters to give…it’s a moving and thought-provoking piece of the book. For this part alone, the novel is worth reading. You may feel, as I did, some frustration with a sense of repitition in the novel–the language is lyrical in a way that makes you feel that you’ve already read certain passages (particulary where Jo is examining her feelings about the past and her role in it).

My recommendation: go ahead and read it, if you’ve got the time.

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