Monogamy by Sue Miller


This is a close examination of an unusual marriage and those tangentially connected to it. It was billed as the story of a widow who learns that her husband had been unfaithful, so I was surprised to find that I was more than half way through before Annie made her discovery.

Besides the chief couple, Graham and Annie, there are other fully active characters. Most important of these is Frieda, Graham’s first wife who became close friends with Annie. When Frieda and Graham married in the 1970s, they had decided to have an open marriage, but Graham’s outsized appetites were too painful for Frieda. Their love and friendship never ended, even through Annie and Graham’s marriage. That one was monogamous, almost; hence, the book. Graham had two children, one with each wife. It was appealing that Annie became very close and important to Frieda’s son Lucas when he needed someone and the same happened with Annie’s daughter Sarah and Frieda.

Annie too had a first marriage which she ended when she discovered she disliked the man she married and perhaps had never loved him. After that ended, she had seven years of casual affairs, sometimes indiscriminately. Occasionally she felt melancholy when these affairs ended and felt hope for a deeper connection. “Even, perhaps, monogamy again.”

Of course the most poignant part of the book is Graham’s death which occurs in his sleep so he is discovered by Annie when she wakes. This occurred just before Graham’s bookstore was to host a writer and Annie was to have an opening for a showing of her photographs. I was surprised at the level of detail about his death and the mundane details of the effect of his death on those plans. And given that level of detail, it was surprising that we hardly heard any more about the bookstore, which would hold interest to me both in itself and for the practical matter that it was the main source of their income.

At times I found the close examination of all the complicated emotional attachments engrossing and at times wearisome.

Sue Miller, Monogamy, Harper, 2020, 338 pages (I read the kindle version). Available in the public library.

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