While I Was Gone
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While I Was Gone

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  38,805 ratings  ·  891 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
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 12th 2000 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 1999)
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47th out of 75 books — 1,140 voters
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Community Reviews

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Kate
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Beth
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nikki
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
Lori
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
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
Margaret
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
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
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
Barks & Bites
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
karen
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
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
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 2 of 5 stars
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
Stephy
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
Chris
Mar 15, 2009 Chris rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Leigh
This book creeped me out but I love Sue Miller's style.
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
Deb
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
Lynne
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
Alexandria
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 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
Kate
I feel wrong rating this only three stars. It is, from as far as I read, well written, but I have come to admit that I do not care for the characters Sue Miller gives us. They're too, I don't know, suburban for me. I tried to read this book, the second of her books I've tried to read, and first put it down after about 10 pages. Was advised to give it a chance, it isn't so suburban. And, indeed, it got a bit more intriguing for the next 30 pages, but then it was back to the characters in their li...more
Christina
A compelling story about a very conflicted woman on the precipice of a classic mid-life crisis. Told in the first person the narrative is very easy to follow and also done well enough that you find yourself in her world very easily even as she flashes back and forth through her memories. Jo is a study of impulsiveness and unintended secrecy. She has everything she could want in life and she *knows* it, but....the classic BUT.

I wont spoil it, but there is an interesting twist which, for once, I...more
Susabelle
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Juliana Graham
I really liked Sue Miller's writing style and found that this kept me going through a book where not really very much happens. As I've mentioned before, I'm very poor at seeing what's coming when there's a twist in a book and I was certainly surprised with this one but my colleague who I suggested the book to after I'd finished it saw it coming on about page 20! It's hard to know what to say about this book really - a convincing portrayal of a long married couple and their reactions when an even...more
Sandra Delehanty
I only gave three stars to this book because I did not find some of the plot believable (even though I loved the writing). For example, I did not believe "Licia" had a good reason to continue lying to her housemates about her true identity -- they would have accepted and protected her.
I also could not put her with a seminary student and (later) pastor. This attraction to "goodness" and morality was not well developed in the book.

On the positive side: Sue Miller has an excellent touch with senso...more
Catherine
Jo, a veterinarian with three grown daughters, lives in a New England town with her husband Daniel, a minister. Through her work, Jo becomes reacquainted with a long-ago housemate, which makes her recall the unsolved murder of another of their housemates.

This book had some interesting parts and pretty good writing – I liked the way her youngest daughter was tied to the story – but it just didn’t come together for me. Jo was utterly un-self-aware and impulsive for someone her age, so it was impos...more
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Oprah's Book Club...: While I Was Gone 3 41 Sep 17, 2012 06:01PM  
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  • Jewel
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  • Black and Blue
  • What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day (Idlewild, #1)
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  • We Were the Mulvaneys
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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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“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.” 33 likes
“I felt the kind of desperation, I think, that cancels the possibility of empathy...that makes you unkind.” 26 likes
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