Well, having finished reading, "Wonder When You'll Miss Me" by Amanda Davis for my book group, I was ready for a new novel.
So I went looking but I have to say that poking around the York Library is not as much fun as poking in the Rye Library. For one thing, the York Library is brand new, and its too big. I can't get used to the way the books are set out and never feel satisfied at the end of my search. Now truly, I am not someone who resists change but this library-change has me stymied.
On this trip I chose, "The Senator's Wife" (of the Good Mother, among others) and finished it late last night. It was a satisfying read. A well-told tale about two complex women, Delia in her 70s and Meri, 38 --- and, I have to say, both Delia and Meri rattled around in my brain today.
The story calles into question the depths of love and the opportunities to forgive; loyalty; betrayal; and, sexual jealousy. But clearly, the most difficult theme of the novel is presented when Delia decides to care for her estranged husband Tom after a debilitating stroke.
Delia had been married to Tom, a US senator, for 50-odd years; she suffered his philandering for 30 of them. Her solution, after his final humiliation, was to stay married but live apart. And she did, pursuing personal independence and meaning through travel, volunteerism, friends and family.
Meri is newly married to Nathan and newly pregnant. They move into a semi-detached house and share interior walls with Delia on the other side.
A beginning friendship blossoms between the women. But sadly Meri too violates Delia's trust. I found this betrayal impossible to accept. I was truly angry. Tom, so utterly dependent on Delia's care, acts to destroy the possibility of her love and any trust that she has re-built. She refuses to face their betrayal.
Miller did justice to these complex themes, I think. But still the reader brings to the work public knowledge of personal betrayals like Tom's by numerous political leaders in the last decades --Clinton--Hart--Edwards--Kennedy. Perhaps that explains why we don't find Tom's behavior so surprising. We see his charm, his flirtatious behavior with all women, his need to be desired by every woman. We hear him apologize to Delia, over and over, professing his love and then betraying her again. And until the end, Delia continues to appear in public with Tom, to campaign with him, to deflect questions from the media that might give away the truth of their relationship. But that final act. That final betrayal is so unforgiveable. So mean and hurtful.
These are not simple characters and they are not simply drawn.