Monogamy appears, at first, to be a story about an older couple who have been together for a long time and are about to experience the heartache of infidelity. The story is told from two points of view; the wife, Annie and her husband, Graham. Both have been married before and have come together as experienced rather than damaged people. They seem like opposites; she is small and reserved, he is big and enjoys being the centre of attention. Their marriage has been long and even though they are very different, they have found happiness with each other. Graham, though, has recently strayed and is regretful. An unexpected and devastating event takes place which changes everything.
It’s a story that raises the issue of how we perceive the past. Does a recently-discovered fact about a partner of many years throw a shadow over the entire relationship? Annie struggles to accept what she has found out.
Sue Miller writes about relationships beautifully. Her characters have different, sometimes contradictory sides; Graham is attracted to a newly divorced woman but his love for Annie still consumes him. He acts on this attraction and hates himself for it. Annie is faithful finding what she needs in the marriage but her professional life has been unfulfilling.
Perception of the past is nicely highlighted when Annie meets a man she once had a romantic dalliance with thirty years before. She remembers the brief encounter intensely. He mistakes her for a different woman, though. This misremembered tryst symbolises the problems with perception of the past. Annie has to decide whether she can live with her new knowledge and forgive her husband of so many years.
I love Sue Miller’s books because they are full of flawed people who should make the right choices but don’t always. It’s not an uplifting book but it’s satisfying because it seems so truthful.