Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Exploring the family dynamic with Sue Miller

My love affair with book sale finds continues ... this time it's "Family Pictures" by Sue Miller.

Back in 1990 when it was first published, I was in the midst of a reading drought. My free time was focused on moving and getting married, not checking out best-seller lists and browsing library shelves. So I missed this work the first go round.

That's why used book sales, those library- or store-staff recommendation shelves, and blogs are so invaluable. There's lots of places to get info about new releases and upcoming releases, but finding a 20-some-year-old gem, not so much.

Miller's name may be familiar to avid readers - especially Oprah fans. Her "While I Was Gone" was an Oprah's Book Club selection in 2000.

"Family Pictures" tells the story of the Eberhardts, a Chicago family of seven circa the late 1960s, early 1970s. Middle son Randall is autistic, a fact that reshapes everyone else.

The story is not about Randall's autism, rather it focuses on what it means to his siblings and his parents. Miller's is a study in the family dynamic, with all its complications.

As daughter Nina reflects:
"... I'd never heard Lainey speak of forgiving or not forgiving my father before this night. That through all he'd done to her with his passionate belief in one particular version of Randall's illness, she'd never let on that she saw herself as injured or damaged by him.... Maybe, when life has bent you, has changed you in the cruel ways it bent and changed Lainey, it's too much to ask that you ever move beyond it."

 Miller does not introduce us to "good" or "bad" people. She crafts husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents and children who are a little of both.

I'll be happy to let you have a read. Just drop me a note.

Check out other works by Sue Miller.

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