Author Sue Miller perfectly articulates our relationship with dogs and cats.
As a rest to the number of non-fiction books that I have been reading over the past few months, Jean recommended a novel she recently finished, While I Was Gone, by Sue Miller. It’s featured on Oprah’s Book Club, from which I quote,
About the Book
A decade ago she put a face on every mother’s worst nightmare with her phenomenal best-seller The Good Mother. Now, Sue Miller delivers a spellbinding novel of love and betrayal that explores what it means to be a good wife.
In the summer of 1968, Jo Becker ran out on the marriage and the life her parents wanted for her, and escaped–for one beautiful, idyllic year–into a life that was bohemian and romantic, living under an assumed name in a rambling group house in Cambridge. It was a time of limitless possibility, but it ended in a single instant when Jo returned home one night to find her best friend lying dead in a pool of blood on the living room floor.
Now Jo has everything she’s ever wanted: a veterinary practice she loves, a devoted husband, three grown daughters, a beautiful Massachusetts farmhouse. And if occasionally she feels a stranger to herself and wonders what happened to the freedom she once felt, or how she came to be the wife, mother, and doctor her neighbors know and trust–if at times she feels as if her whole life is vanishing behind her as she’s living it–she need only look at her daughters or her husband, Daniel, to recall the satisfactions of family and community and marriage.
But when an old housemate settles in her small town, the fabric of Jo’s life begins to unravel: seduced again by the enticing possibility of another self and another life, she begins a dangerous flirtation that returns her to the darkest moment of her past and imperils all she loves.
While I Was Gone is an exquisitely suspenseful novel about how quickly and casually a marriage can be destroyed, how a good wife can find herself placing all she holds dear at risk. In expert strokes, Sue Miller captures the precariousness of even the strongest ties, the ease with which we abandon each other, and our need to be forgiven. An extraordinary book, her best, from a beloved American writer.
Have to say that even though there’s an obvious gender difference between me, the heroine and the author, I found the book tough reading , as in emotional, from time to time. Especially, the euthanasia of Arthur the dog towards the end of Chapter 7 – Jo is a vet. A few paragraphs I just couldn’t read . But then on page 137 in Chapter 8, comes this,
I stood in the center of the yard for a moment and tilted my head back to let the soft snow touch my face. The dogs pranced and rolled for pure joy in the pale, gray-brown light. They chased each other wildly. I made snowballs and threw them; the dogs leapt and bit at where they’d disappeared. As they played, their muzzles whitened, their paws pilled up.
I left them reluctantly and came back in. Watson trailed me around as I did my chores, watching me soberly. I shut him out of the cat room, where we had only two boarders. I let one of them out to roam and use the litter pan while I checked its cage. I put more food down. Then I went back out and worked my way through the dogs’ cages. Two of them had had accidents, so I cleaned up and changed their bedding. Several of them had their own food, in cans – those dishes needed to be washed. Water refreshed, kibbles set out for the others.
I went to the cat room, put the first cat back and let the other one out. Then I called the reluctant dogs in. Watson greeted each one like a tiny worried mother, licking at their snow, fussing about how they smelled. Slowly I recaged them. I released Lucky and let him go outside for his solitary run while I refilled his food and water dishes. Three dogs needed medications. I put the last cat back in, called Lucky inside, locked up.
And while I did all this, I thought only of them, of the dogs and cats, of their requests for affection, of their comical or passionate relationships to one another, of the performance of their bodily functions. I was taken up by them and their life and energy, by what they needed and asked of me. I let go of everything difficult or complex in my life.
It reminded me of my days at Dr. Moran’s, caring for the dogs and cats he boarded and treated. It reminded me of what a comfort it had been to me, even just physical escape into the lives of animals. As I was driving home, I thought of all this, and it seemed to me that I’d chosen work which offered me daily the presence of pure innocence, a forgiveness for all my human flaws.
the presence of pure innocence, a forgiveness for all my human flaws Impossible to add anything; so I won’t!