"Monogamy," | Reviewed by Chris Stuckenschneider
Updated: Sep 8, 2020
Prolific and popular author Sue Miller writes character-driven books about people and their relationships. In her newest novel “Monogamy” we meet Annie, married at 23 and “free at twenty-nine.”
After her marriage to Alan soured, Annie didn’t waste time getting involved with other men, a liberated woman, she enjoyed sex. But when she meets Graham, a bookstore owner at an event she attends at his shop, she’s especially smitten by the “large” man with “… his apparent joyfulness, his ease, the feeling of his rumbling voice in her ear.” In mere months Annie and Graham move in together, and soon marry.
After meeting Annie, we learn about the inner workings of Graham, as he ruminates on his previous marriage to Frieda, an “open” marriage he advocated to fill his appetites. Before Frieda and Graham had their son, Frieda tried to accept her husband’s need for sex outside marriage, and took lovers of her own, but with a child the rules changed for her—yet they didn’t for Graham.
Miller pulls the rug out from under readers by causing a tragedy to befall Graham, who’s been married to Annie for 30 years, a tragedy that sends her reeling. As if that life change isn’t hard enough for Annie to handle, secrets are revealed about Graham that threaten to upend her—a shocker I’m withholding for fear of ruining the story.
I have mixed feelings about this novel, which was immediately engaging, but bogged down halfway through. I found it hard to have respect for Graham, to like him as a character, this blowsy, self-serving man who failed to learn from past mistakes, until it was too late for him to put his newfound morality into practice.
What distaste I felt for Graham was compounded because of my affection for Annie, and her struggles to come to grips with her long marriage to him.
“Monogamy” is well worth a read despite its shortcomings—it’s thought provoking but mournful, with a title that drips with sarcasm.