Derailed by the sudden passing of her husband of thirty years, an artist on the brink of a gallery opening struggles to pick up the pieces of her life before discovering harrowing evidence of her husband's affair.
It’s a rich, complex book—but in the end it’s the story of a marriage, a remarkably good one considering how mismatched this fictional husband and wife appear to be ... what a village Miller offers us here! Her great gift is how clearly she sees these all-important people of hers, even in the smallest of moments ... Without exception Miller’s minor characters spring to life with Dickensian vividness...In this way the novel builds by accretion, each character existing to shed light on the others ... But as fully peopled as the novel is, it’s Annie and Graham’s marriage that centers things, a feat all the more remarkable given that Graham dies in the first act ... may not be everyone’s cup of tea. If you’re looking for spare, show-don’t-tell narration, brisk pacing and snappy dialogue spoken by easily comprehended characters, look elsewhere. There’s a lot of very good TV that operates on these principles. Miller operates differently, and the result is an old-fashioned, slow burn of a novel that allows readers to dream deeply. But be forewarned: Miller’s generosity requires a corresponding generosity on the part of readers. Unlike her protagonist, Miller knows exactly who she is and what she wants to take pictures of. As a result those pictures are full of depth and contrast and lush detail. They need to be studied, not glanced at. They belong in an art gallery, not on Instagram.
Melodramatic ... Yet, in Miller hands, this piece of artifice becomes transformed into felt life. She's one of our most emotionally profound and nuanced writers ... a vivid cast of supporting characters, each with their own takes on Graham and Annie, help open out the novel: among them, Graham's first wife, Frieda, a teacher who never stopped loving him, as well as Graham and Annie's adult daughter, Sarah ... Monogamy is deliciously thick with such arresting psychological perceptions. As Annie struggles with her grief and postmortem shock at Graham's infidelity, Miller keeps deftly shifting what we readers might anticipate to be the ending of this novel. I may be overreaching, but the deeper I got into Monogamy, and especially when I arrived at its lyrical final pages, the more the novel made me think of the The Dead, James Joyce's short story masterpiece about a man whose sense of his marriage is radically changed by one fateful moment. Both narratives end on a snow-silenced night haunted by ghosts—ghosts who are out of reach, but still, maddeningly, messing with the living.
... unbelievably good ... Miller is excellent at conveying and illuminating the inner lives of her characters, and she remains one of the best writers at depicting the day-to-day normality of sexual desire. Events occur in this novel—normal sorts of things—and Miller’s attention, her descriptions and the tempo at which she reveals them help us feel these events truly and deeply. She has found in Monogamy probably the best expression of her longtime interest in sociograms, an exercise to demonstrate how lives intersect and influence each other. Among the relationships of the characters in Monogamy, there are reverberations upon reverberations ... How great is Monogamy? If this is not Miller’s best novel, it is surely among her very best. One measure of that is how the experience of it deepens with each reading.