Review

The World Below

by Sue Miller



Sue Miller is a truly feminist writer. By feminist I mean (for
those of you who are strangely frightened by the word) that she has
a deep and truly insightful understanding of the ways in which
women's complicated hearts, souls, and minds work. In THE WORLD
BELOW, as in her last book WHILE I WAS GONE or her masterful novels
FAMILY PICTURES and THE GOOD MOTHER, she exhibits an even more
finely honed ability to get under the skin of her characters.

Georgia Rice and her granddaughter Catherine Hubbard don't seem to
have a lot in common --- Rice a matronly country doctor's wife,
Hubbard a two-time divorcee in the midst of a mid-life crisis ---
but in the valuable details of the lives that have shaped them they
are very similar. Their marriages are something one wouldn't
suspect from the outside, they still suffer the abandonments of
their mothers while still girls, they both feel enormous guilt and
harbor secrets about themselves that no one else knows. In THE
WORLD BELOW it is the emotional and spiritual life below the
surface that ties together these women from intensely separate
generations, in a way that even their blood ties cannot bind
them.

Georgia's journey begins with her time in a tuberculosis
sanitarium. Catherine's journey begins where her grandmother's life
lets off. Moving into Georgia's old home, Catherine finds, amidst
her grandmother's effects, diaries accounting the strange and
troubled past with which she was obviously conflicted her entire
life. Somewhere in those pages, where revelations about her
grandparents' marriage come at a quick and horrifying pace,
Catherine begins to find some hope for her own future.

Miller is a remarkable writer; her ability to give you immense
detail in quick and easy segments is a true gift. Her characters
are drawn so masterfully that you will feel like you have met them
before, in real life. Georgia, whose story is relayed to us bit by
bit, is as perfect a literary creation as any character can be ---
and Miller, because she takes her time to reveal little by little
Georgia's haunted past, keeps the reader so completely involved
that they won't be able to put this book down for a moment. I
predict that a lot of people will be fairly bleary-eyed at work the
day after embarking on this luscious, provocative reading
experience.

THE WORLD BELOW is as complete a book as you can get, as good a
book as you can find on bookshelves today. Sue Miller's latest is a
complete triumph, the sort of book that will be passed on from
person to person in a samba line of happy readers who wish to
spread that joy. A hopeful story, THE WORLD BELOW is the perfect
antidote to today's overwhelming malaise.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 24, 2011

The World Below
by Sue Miller

  • Publication Date: April 26, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0345481062
  • ISBN-13: 9780345481061