Friday, November 16, 2007

The World Below by Sue Miller

I have a particular love for books that happen on multiple layers at once, and have many threads interwoven with intersections and haunting repeating patterns. They remind me of operas or musical scores where themes and melodies can echo back and forth through the story, foreshadowing, reminding, revealing. The patterns that repeat or overlap between story lines lead you to effortlessly draw comparisons and parallels.

The World Below by Sue Miller has three or four overlapping stories, all in one family, that are beautifully woven back and forth between San Francisco and New England, between the past and the present, from one generation and parental relationship, to the next. Relationships, age differences, how certain situations take us out of the world and change the rules, how hard it is to come back into the world we knew, the love of parents and grandparents, stories left unfulfilled in one generation repeated with different result in another generation... there is so much to hear in these intertwined stories. The jacket blurb made it sound like a simple story of a woman finding her grandmother's diaries - but this is so much more complex, and yet so simply told.

The shifts from one layer to another are well timed; they even seem inevitable, an effect which particularly pleased and surprised me. The characters and conversations all fit, and sound like their places and periods. I loved every minute of it.

4 comments:

DebD said...

This sounds like the kind of book I would like.

Framed said...

Interesting review. I haven't heard of this book before but now I'm going to look into it. Thanks.

Writing and Living said...

I enjoyed Inventing the Abbots by the same author. It sounds like I will enjoy this one, too. Thanks for the review.

Literary Feline said...

I love your comparison of a multi-layered story to music. It's a perfect image.

I have not read anything by Sue Miller, although I see her name pop up from time to time. Looks like it is time I give her a try. Thank you for the review!