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While I Was Gone
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While I Was Gone

3.67  ·  Rating Details  ·  50,128 Ratings  ·  1,069 Reviews
Jo Becker has every reason to be content. She has three dynamic daughters, a loving marriage, and a rewarding career. But she feels a sense of unease. Then an old housemate reappears, sending Jo back to a distant past when she lived in a communal house in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Drawn deeper into her memories of that fateful summer in 1968, Jo begins to obsess about the ...more
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Published January 7th 2002 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published December 12th 1998)
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Margie She mentions that in the shared house, they got a pad of "while you were gone" memo pads, that they used to leave funny notes around the house.
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kate
Sep 02, 2008 Kate rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This story of a wife and mother suddenly revisiting her past had great moments and held my attention. Still it had long, boring passages.

I found the protagonist annoying and self-indulgent in a way that didn't jibe at all with the way she thought of herself. Further, her inability to see it, even in the end left me unsatisfied.

At points, her descriptions and observations, while interesting and well drawn, dragged on. Her focus on minutia rang untrue to me, her description of her marriage and her
...more
Sarah
Oct 20, 2007 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nikki
Jul 22, 2008 Nikki rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I expect every Oprah's book club pick to get 3 stars (unless the book's by Toni Morrison). While I Was Gone is that special breed of book that plummeted to 2- and 1-star territory after chapter 10.

The novel started out well enough. I empathized with Jo, the main character, as she looked back on running away from an unsatisfying relationship. I understood that you can detest a particular lifestyle at one point of your life, and find it's exactly what you need at another. (Happy relationships are
...more
Margaret
Oct 12, 2008 Margaret rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Somewhat unwillingly,I reread this novel for a book group.
And I found details about Sue Miller's style that I had not
paid attention to in my first go round.She is a master of
natural description and I slowed to savor the snow falling
in New England and the pleasures of walking the dogs late on an autumn evening.
Miller strikes me as both a highly moral author and one who is scrupulously honest about her characters inner thoughts and motives. The tension between these results in
gripping prose
...more
Beth
Sep 24, 2008 Beth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stephy
Jul 01, 2009 Stephy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Can we say Boring? Oh it really was...She jumped from her current life to her teenage years back and forth like a ping pong ball..And when I finished the book I sat there question what was the whole point of reading it? I mean yes there was an issue that was solved but it just didn't say much about the story. I found a review by another woman on good reads and I have to say I agree with her 100 percent...She says
I liked this book until I realized that I has 1/3 of the way through and couldn't fi
...more
Lori
Aug 01, 2007 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2006july
One of the benefits to reading So Damn Much is I often forget what I've consumed, allowing me to discover it all over again.

I spent the first 20 pages of While I Was Gone thinking it felt very familiar, but I couldn't quite put it all together. I was viewing the story through a veil of forgetfulness.

So on this reread, I was able to invest in the characters, immerse in the world and be surprised all over again.
Kelly
Mar 29, 2013 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2013
I first read this book 10+ years ago when it was chosen as an Oprah's Book Club pick. I liked it well enough then to hang on to my copy; I don't keep every book, because I just don't have the space, so I'm very choosy about what I do keep. I knew I'd want to reread this one some day, and I'm glad that I did.

Veterinarian Jo Becker lives a comfortable existance in a small New England town, married with three grown daughters who are out of the house. Comfortable, that is, until someone from her pas
...more
Carin
Thank God book club is tonight. Because the minute I closed this book (in fact, a few pages from the end even), I was torn by a desperate desire to discuss this book in depth with someone! So many intriguing topics and issues she brings up. One that struck me as very profound is this: Jo has a happy life. Three young adult daughters more or less succeeding in the real world, a successful work life, a wonderful husband, happy marriage, cute dogs, adorable house. And yet, (or perhaps because of) s ...more
Nancy
Feb 01, 2009 Nancy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, northeast-us
The author says in the back-of-the-book interview that she found it hard to like Jo and I agree with her. I found Jo to be too self-centered and Daniel to be somewhat of a jerk. I also felt the kids were spoiled. No one in this family seems really loving. They're all involved in their own pursuits to the exclusion of everyone else. I agree that Daniel's sermon represents a turning point and was one of the more pleasurable sections. I do find it odd that Jo doesn't participate more in Daniel's li ...more
Bark's Book Nonsense
This book was in places very beautifully written but for all of that I found the heroine and the choices she made quite selfish. Here's a woman with a loving husband, a prosperous career she loves and not a worry in the world. She's willing to toss it all away because, to me, she seems either bored or regretful that her life is so easy (we should all be so lucky!). This made her very difficult to sympathize with and made me want to strangle her. I did enjoy the fact that in the end her "problem" ...more
Fionnuala
Dec 30, 2011 Fionnuala rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The comfortable life of a middle aged woman is disrupted when she meets up with an old acquaintance. So far, so potentially boring. And there were indeed times when I wanted to give up on this story, when I didn't really care what happened to the characters. But Sue Miller has a gift for describing detail that drew me in completely. She places the trivia of our lives under the microscope and the resulting analysis is just so accurate. A great writer - she just needs a better story.
Joy H.
Added 2/14/11.
I started reading this book 9/7/11 and finished around 9/16/11.
This book kept me reading. It's the 4rd book I've read by Sue Miller. Each one seems better than the last.

This book, _While I was Gone_, isn't a mystery book but there's a bit of mystery in it which keeps you reading.

Below is a quote from the book which gives us some food for thought:
p.266: "Perhaps it's best to live with the possibility that around any corner, at any time, may come the person who reminds you of your ow
...more
Erin
Jun 02, 2012 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
In any given day, there are an infinite number of things I would like to get away from -- phone calls, traffic, laundry, work. Who hasn't wanted to get away from their lives or to experience what it's like to be someone else? But the fact that I, like so many others, stay grounded and don't indulge the urge to run made it hard for me to like Jo, the main character.

Jo's a runner. Sue Miller gives a lot of examples of things she runs away from. She runs away from home when she was eight or nine ye
...more
Susan
Mar 16, 2008 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title pulled me in. The narrator--a middle-aged woman, veterinarian, mother of two grown daughters, wife of a pastor--explores her own life from the vantage point of an intense personal crisis. Memories--from college days in the 60s--catch up with her, though one suspects she slows the forward pace of her immediate life so that they will certainly overtake her. The struggle thus begins--or continues, heightened. Sue Miller's past-becomes-present plot isn't original, but the writer's renderin ...more
Erin
Mar 15, 2008 Erin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Erin by: liked others by this author
I'm two-thirds of the way through and am not sure how I feel about this book. I think I'm hitting a slump with it, the action is stalling and I'm not sure where it is going. It has been interesting reading about a mother/wife who is at the point in her life where her daughters are grown and moved out of the house. It makes me think about how I will handle that stage of my life someday.

UPDATE: A year or so ago I read a book by Sue Miller called The World Below. I really enjoyed that book, and wa
...more
John
Jan 04, 2016 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thirty years ago, bored by the prospect of her future in a safe marriage, Jo ran away and spent a few months in a communal house in Boston, enjoying the hippy lifestyle while keeping herself distanced from it. That all fell apart when she came home one night to find Dana, the commune's earthmother figure, brutally murdered by, it seems, an intruder intent on raiding the occupants' housekeeping money.

Now Jo is a successful vet in a small Massachusetts town, happily married to her second husband,
...more
Misti
Jan 26, 2016 Misti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel is a psychological examination of the main character who is narrated in a very reflective first person style. This psychological unveiling is why I loved this book!

Sue Miller really understands people. Her insights into human behavior is startling at times in its accuracy.

With loaded word choices her sentences lay heavy with meaning. I would be interested in anything she has written or will write.

Miller does remind me some of Berg. A new beloved author!

"I was remembering the way it
...more
Ron Charles
Endings are hard on people. They're even harder on novels. By the time readers arrive at the end of a story, they've built up an emotional and intellectual investment. They've earned - or think they've earned - a certain expertise about the plot, the tone, and the characters in between the covers.

Novelists can get away with anything at the start of a book, but by the end, like it or not, writers are entangled in a kind of collaboration with their audience.

Two of last year's finest books slipped
...more
Lynne
Apr 21, 2012 Lynne rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ick. One star for a decent plot, and a respectable theme.

I dislike being told all about a character, especially by the character herself. Show me, and let me experience the story rather than instructing me. I found much of the narrative to be a little trite, and sometimes too "Harlequinesque".

Far too many mundane details about insignificant acts, such as an entire paragraph on making risotto. No, I did not think that such ramblings of routine ran counterpoint to Jo's impulsiveness, nor that th
...more
Chris
Mar 15, 2009 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chris by: Rachel
I thought this one was a bit clunky at first. It didn't begin to flow for me until about the third chapter, but once it did, I sopped it up pretty eagerly. The book deals with selves. The ones we were, the ones we've become, and the ways we choose to incorporate our pasts into our present lives. It deals with self-justifications of the shameful, hurtful or otherwise negative actions we play out. Honesty and trust within the familial structure are weighed heavily against the images one hopes to c ...more
Sally Acker
Jun 10, 2016 Sally Acker rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Oh, this book was so bad. I mean it was SO BAD. If you're interested in books that, you know, have the typical plot structure of [rising action --> climax --> falling action --> resolution], this book is not for you. The entire thing is rising action. There's no climax and there's hardly resolution.

This supposedly-acclaimed author is really not a good writer either. I'm not pretending that I'm a good author, but I am a good reader; so I can tell you that her writing style in this novel
...more
Kathy
Many years ago, when my first born was two, I read The Good Mother and I remember it brought me to tears, it was so moving.

I've avoided Sue Miller for years, till now, thinking it was just a chick lit phase I was going through when I was younger. Well, I picked this book up for my monthly book club and honestly, I can't put the damn thing down.

At times, the book seems pointless, sort of meandering all over the place and I question WHAT IS THE POINT? However, I feel like Sue Miller is a really go
...more
Leigh
Aug 29, 2008 Leigh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book creeped me out but I love Sue Miller's style.
Saiyara
Apr 16, 2015 Saiyara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book was an amazing experience.
WHILE I WAS GONE is an introspective and mysterious book that was completely engrossing and mesmerizing.
This book made me question a lot of things about life, about pain and memories, about the past, present and the future. 'The different versions of ourselves that life keeps offering' is hard to accept, and the fact, the hard truth that the old version is gone, is more so. Are our thoughts who we really are? Having thoughts about a situation that is w
...more
Deb
Oct 21, 2011 Deb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: women, fiction
I think that most of us feel separate from the person we once were, as though our earlier life belongs to someone we used to know; a person we have now lost touch with. This is certainly true for Jo Becker, whose restlessness and unhappiness in her first marriage led her to escape to another city where she lived under an assumed name in a house shared with several roommates. Years later, when Jo's daughters have all left home to live their own lives, Jo is adjusting to her empty nest with her mi ...more
Alexandria
Jul 31, 2012 Alexandria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I didn't love the main character in this novel, author Sue Miller is a master of scene and narrative detail (and as she notes in an interview printed in the back of the book, she found it hard to like Jo Becker too).

Jo Becker is having some sort of existential late-life crisis in "While I Was Gone" (1999). Despite having a successful career as a veterinarian, three daughters and a solid, long-term marriage to a preacher, she constantly questions her conventional life. This complex internal
...more
Eugene Boyle
Jan 10, 2013 Eugene Boyle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Eugene by: Missi Kelly
After reading many of the reviews already posted here, I find I cannot add anything more enlightening as to the story line. If you like good writing, you will like this book.

I am a man (husband / father) and, as such, I find it interesting that while many of the reviewers (especially females) here on Goodreads sound as if they are judging Jo / Felicia negatively as cowardly for running “away” from her life; I can somewhat relate to to the sometimes overwhelming urge to spontaneously recreate one
...more
Jennifer
Dec 16, 2007 Jennifer rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cotcbookclub
I finally finished this after what feels like forever (not a problem with the book so much as a problem with my schedule). I think the drawn out reading time did not do the book any favors. Also knowing the ending ahead of time due to our book club discussion meant I was reading the last third with different preconceptions than before. Even so though, this is a difficult book because Jo, our main character, is not immediately likeable or sympathetic and the decisions she makes don't help improve ...more
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3517
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Sue Miller (born November 29, 1943 in Chicago) is an American writer who has authored a number of best-selling novels. Her duties as a single mother left her with little time to write for many years, and as a result she did not publish her first novel until 1986, after spend
...more
More about Sue Miller...

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“I felt the kind of desperation, I think, that cancels the possibility of empathy...that makes you unkind.” 42 likes
“But perhaps this is all to the good. Perhaps it’s best to live with the possibility that around any corner, at any time, may come the person who reminds you of your own capacity to surprise yourself, to put at risk everything that’s dear to you. Who reminds you of the distances we have to bridge to begin to know anything about one another. Who reminds you that what seems to be—even about yourself—may not be. That like him, you need to be forgiven.” 42 likes
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