In the hands of any but an extremely skilled novelist, Sue Miller’s experiment could easily have failed: Concoct a play, bring readers to watch it, and then spin a tale—involving playwright, lead actor, and two audience members—in which the meanings of that play-within-thenovel are examined from radically divergent perspectives by each of the four characters. Yet Miller uses this scheme to create one of her most satisfying novels, a work that confi rms her place among the masters of the genre.
And have I mentioned 9/11? The tragedy looms, both realistically and fantastically, over the lives of Miller’s characters, along with other, more private tragedies, all worried over and worked through on the page so plausibly that the occasional triumph feels like our own victory. In an early scene, Leslie Morse, a Mrs. Dalloway fi gure who occupies herself selecting a bouquet of fl owers for her young brother’s playwright girlfriend on the night of the performance, remembers an evening when she entertained the couple at her house in the country, recalling “the pleasure of listening to them” from the kitchen, where she was cooking dinner. Despite the grief Miller’s characters experience in the course of this tale, we are always deeply aware of the pleasure of listening to them as they talk and think their way to resolution.