Meri is newly married, pregnant, and standing on the cusp of her life as a wife and mother, recognizing with some terror the gap between reality and expectation. Delia—wife of the two-term liberal senator Tom Naughton—
is Meri’s new neighbor in the adjacent New England town house. Tom’s chronic infidelity has been an open secret in Washington circles, but despite the complexity of their relationship, the bond between them remains strong. Soon Delia and Meri find themselves leading strangely parallel lives, as they both reckon with the contours and mysteries of marriage: one refined and abraded by years of complicated intimacy, the other barely begun. With precision and a rich vitality, Sue Miller—beloved and bestselling author of While I Was Gone—brings us a highly charged, superlative novel about marriage and forgiveness.
“A leisurely, meticulously constructed tale that builds inevitably, even relentlessly, to a striking, life-changing denouement. . . . An impressive addition to Miller’s list of novels.” —Chicago Tribune
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In the train coming down to the city, Delia couldn’t imagine how it would be to see Tom, to be with him. She was actually frightened, aware as she watched the dry September landscape and the tired, dusty cities flash by, that her heart was pumping faster from time to time, her breath coming short. She’d brought a book with her, but she didn’t even pretend to read. She watched the scenes change out the window – the marshes, then the steely water, then the backside of one little New England town after another – and she felt swamped by memories.
She remembered Tom promising her he wouldn’t see Carolee ever again, his face turned away from her, his shoulders dropped in what seemed like defeat. She remembered his sitting opposite her in the kitchen in Williston after she’d learned that he had been lying, after she’d called him and told him that was it, she was leaving, going away. He’d flown up to see her, to talk, to ask her not to divorce him now, not until the election was over. She sat for what seemed like hours, tears coursing down her face, as he told her he had tried, but hadn’t been able to give Carolee up. As they talked about when he’d been lying, when he’d been telling the truth. As she announced her disbelief that he could have chosen a woman young enough to be his child; that he didn’t see, or wouldn’t acknowledge, the lopsidedness of it, its unfairness to Carolee. “Of course the girl adores you. It’s in the nature of that difference, that advantage, that she should.” Her voice was hoarse, cracked, she’d been crying for so long.
“She’s not a girl, Delia.” He was calm, reasonable. “You and I had been married for more than five years when you were her age, and you were not a girl, then.”
“But you were not a man thirty years my senior,” she shrilled. “You didn’t have that advantage to … dazzle me with. We were ourselves.”
“I am myself with her,” he said, and Delia laughed, though she was still also crying.