While I Was Gone – Sue Miller

Our novel opens with Joey Becker lazing on a boat on her day off while her husband fishes next to her.  We learn that they have three very different, very vibrant adult girls.  Everything seems perfect, and serene for our couple.  But as soon as our contented bubble is constructed – it’s popped.
Jo narrates her feelings of discontent, stating she feels both, “I was abruptly and most intensely, sharply aware of all the aspects of life surrounding me, and yet of feeling neither part of it nor truly separated from it.”  A feeling which Jo later describes as a premonition when an old house mate is thrown back into her life.  Forcing her to relive memories she had long run away from.

 

We weave in and out of the past, to the communal house in 1968 where Jo first met Dana, and Eli, and all the others.  We are pulled along for the ride as Jo struggles to finally face the demons she ran away from, dragging her further away from her husband Daniel and the life they have built.

 

The first person view helps us feel the whole range of emotions Jo is stirring around in.  Sorrow for her past life, anticipation and fear from this old familiar face, and heartache when her secrets begin to tumble out around her.  Sue Miller allows us to find ourselves as Jo does, slowly and haphazardly.

 

“Quietly gripping…” – USA Today

“A beautiful and frightening book… many readers will find it difficult to forget…” – The New York Times Book Review

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