Looking at old photographs of family, I have often wondered what their lives were like and what they were thinking when the photo was taken. Sue Miller explores that idea and the concept that below a surface of daily life our parents, grandparents, etc., had challenges, wants, needs, desires, secrets, conflicts that we never saw and never knew about. Sometimes because we don't see them as real people, with lives and pasts, we don't walk through the doors into their lives that they open. Sometimes we just have to reach a certain maturity before we are ready to accept that they may have wanted something else out of life than what they were given, or may have had a colorful, interesting or even sad past. Miller's book explores all of this and more as her main character tries to reconcile her past, present and fashion a future while learning more about a grandmother she deeply loved but never truly understood while the woman was alive. This is not a book of rapids and waterfalls, but a ride down the river of time, where we never quite know what will appear around the next bend, or what lies under the surface, in the world below.
Miller gets into the internal mindset of the two women in this story in a unique way. Catherine (a twice married woman in her 50's with grown children) returns to her grandmother's (Georgia) home and finds her diary. We learn about Georgia through her diary entries and I am thankful for Miller's gift of weaving the alternating storylines into my own heart. Georgia, who was diagnosed with tuberculosis as a teen, is the character I am most interested in. Her life-altering experience in the "san" often left me wishing I would've asked my own grandmother more questions about her older sister who was diagnosed with TB in the 1940s and "was sent away to the san" too. I greedily found myself researching the two sanitariums in my own state of Michigan (Battle Creek and Traverse City had sanitariums in the 1880s) and tried to imagine what life was was like for my great-aunt who went to the Battle Creek sanitarium. I know my own grandmother took her sister's child and raised him for the three years she was in the san. My grandmother talked about her sister's absence with great sadness. She didn't reveal too much (it seems many people from her generation who suffered greatly didn't talk about it but "got on with their lives.") Georgia endured, sacrificed but always remembered. The rich, emotional depth of "The World Below" caused me to shed tears for everyone sentenced to time at a santitarium -- then and now.
I like the way that the author blended the stories of Catherine and her grandmother Georgia. The story is nicely written and really delves into the feeling of emotional helplessness that the characters are feeling. A good book, will not disappoint.
A unique treatment of searching out personal family history, this book is fascinating and beautifully written. The author is skillful at making her characters come alive, and making the reader empathize.
Very beautiful story of generations of love. An elegant read. Starts in 1919 and goes to the present time of generations, and a home that was left to a grandaughter. She decides to visit and Catherine finds love still there that her family knew for years and she hadn't known until now. Lovely story-told ever so elegantely. Loved this book.
I'm a fan of Sue Miller but did not like this book as much as some of her others (While I Was Gone, Family Pictures, The Senators' Wife). The New England setting was very vivid but overall the story was too slow and meandering for me.
I liked the book. It was interesting in that it covered the live of her grandmother as well as some of her own. In reviewing her grandmother's live through her just found diaries she was able to see how different events effected her grandmother and draw some knowledge from those events to her own live. It was very interesting although a bit choppy. A good read!
"It's the kind of book that is so subtly involved that it didn't seem like much was happening, but...the ideas were profound. Every detail means something. Very unique and believable characters. Definitely worth the read, especially for Sue Miller fans." amazon review
This book is written about two women, a grandmother and her granddaughter, and how the past influences the actions of the younger generation. The grandmother's story is explained in the last few pages and was quite a surprise to me, as I did not see it during the reading of the book.
This is a compelling novel about a woman who returns to the home of her deceased grandparents following her divorce to recapture the peace and belonging that she once knew as a child. She remembers her grandmother through her diaries and her own memories. The grandmother's story of being hospitalized in a sanitorium for tb patients and her subsequent marriage to her doctor. The diaries reveal details of her grandmother's life previously unknown to the woman. It is a story within a story and told in Sue Miller's signature excellent style.
A book that exposes the nerves that lie hidden in marriages and families, and the hopes and regrets that lie buried in the hearts of women. With the tales of two women (one modern day and one from the 1920's) one a country doctor's wife with a haunting past, the other a twice-divorced San Fran schoolteacher casting about at midlife for answers for her future. Linked by bitter disappointments, compromise, and powerful grace, the lives of George and Cath begin to seem remarkably similar.
New England, 1919. Nineteen year old Georgia Rice, who has cared for her father and two siblings ever since her mother's death, is diagnosed with consumption and sent away to a sanitarium. Freed from the burdens of running a household, she discovers a nearly lost world of youth and possibility - and a doomed romance.
The present. Catherine Hubbard, Georgia's granddaughter, no longer feels any attachment to her life in San Fransico. After her divorce, she shudders when she hears herself refer to a man she lived with for twelve years as her "second" husband - words she could never, in her youth, have imagined uttering. So when Georgia's old Vermont house is passed down to her, Cath seizes the cance to return to the simple comfort of her childhood home. There, sorting through her own affairs, Cath stumbles upon Georgia's diaries. Through them, she glimpses the true world of her grandparents that lingered below the one she saw- and the misunderstang upon which Georgia built a lifelong love.