Good intentions can change another person’s life, but this change may not always be welcome. When the mother of two girls dies, their grandmother arrives to take them back to her rural home. Their father refuses the offer; privately, the girls laugh at the notion of living with their backwoods relative. But she was right. Caring for their widowed father would prove to be a great sacrifice. They probably would have been better off with the freedom their grandmother’s care could have provided.
Years later, when the elder daughter becomes ill, her doctor sends her away to a sanatorium for her health. When she returns, the two marry. After several decades together she discovers that she wasn’t really sick enough to warrant the sanatorium. Her husband sent her because he thought it would be best since he thought she needed to escape the life she had taking care of her father.
She is not grateful for his intervention. She liked the life she had. The doctor’s well intended gesture had changed her life forever.
Years later, the doctor will do the same for his grand-daughter by sending her to Paris to live with her aunt. There she will discover a side of the grandmother who has raised her that she never suspected.
Sue Miller writes about the ways relationships can be complicated by simple acts and by dramatic ones. Sometimes these are one in the same. In The World Below some characters reveal their past lives, others are discovered, but no one is who we think they are, not entirely. Everyone has a history. Discovering it can be painful, revealing it can be cruel.
Ms. Miller understands the complexities of people and the relationship they form. She understands that even happy families struggle to maintain their relationships. Her work proves Tolstoy wrong, happy families are not all alike. You just have to look a bit harder, get to know them intimately. Families are complex things. For love to survive, some things must be revealed, some things are best kept secret.
This book sounds really good to me, but I don’t remember it at all. I first ran this review back in 2011 on my old blog, Ready When You Are, C.B. At that time I was reading a lot of Sue Miller. She was consistently one of my favorites, a reliable entertainer who always provided much in the was of food for thought, too. I’ve not read her in quite a while, but this review makes me want to give her another go. It also reminds me of Laurne Groff who I have been reading lately. Is Lauren Groff the new Sue Miller?