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The World Below

3.55  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,414 Ratings  ·  253 Reviews
From the author of While I Was Gone, a stunning new novel that showcases Sue Miller's singular gift for exposing the nerves that lie hidden in marriages and families, and the hopes and regrets that lie buried in the hearts of women.

Maine, 1919. Georgia Rice, who has cared for her father and two siblings since her mother's death, is diagnosed, at nineteen, with tuberculosis
Paperback, 336 pages
Published April 26th 2005 by Ballantine Books (first published 1993)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jul 25, 2014 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some would classify Miller's book as "Summer Reading", but since I do not follow that trend, I would state that although in some respects it could be considered light, I enjoyed the ebb and flow of her writing. It soon becomes clear that the author has tapped thoughtful, reflective depths. Simply stated, it is about woman, who following two failed marriages and other life changes, goes to live in her grandmother's home in rural Vermont. While trying to find new directions for her own existence, ...more
Feb 20, 2013 Margitte rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, reviewed
I'm not sure what my final impressions of the book must be. The parallel between Cath and her grandmother Georgia did not work for me that well. I might have missed something.

The grandmother's story could have been told on its own and it would have been a very strong, unusual and powerful story. It was watered down by both 1) trying to add Cath's (mundane) story to it and making her the main character instead of Georgia, and 2) using sexual innuendos to 'enhance' the story, which did not work at
Oct 01, 2009 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: women-lit
I like Sue Miller. I have read a few of her books and rub my hands in excitement at the fact that I have unread offerings on my bookshelves.

The story of this book revolves around two women, Georgia the grandmother and Catherine her granddaughter. Catherine is all grown up and becomes a grandmother herself by the end of the book.

The book very easily and clearly moves between the stories of the women. Georgia’s grandmother is also a character, briefly, as is Catherine’s granddaughter. And yet th
Oct 11, 2012 Alan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sue Miller's characters read; this makes them far more interesting, more complex than most American characters. In this novel, the central character reads letters of her great-grandmother who had been institutionalized at nineteen. This led to a lifetime, a marriage, of unsuspected depths and doubts.
Such reading characters should also interest Goodreads afficianados. In the World Below, the life of the TB asylum is exposed, in a sense. All that time, nothing to do: of course relationships devel
I found myself not liking the main characters in this book very much and either didn't think the novel had much to say or didn't care for what it did say. The women in the story had a frustrating way of blaming others or circumstances for the choices they themselves made. And they seemed to make a lot of baffling turns and sudden changes of direction that made no sense in the context of the novel to me. I couldn't relate to them and I couldn't appreciate them, either. Sometimes a novel with unli ...more
Dec 27, 2015 Candice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
About a schizophrenic wife: "He hoped, he always hoped this; it's the disease that affects those who love people who are ill - that this would be a turning point for her, that things might be different from now on. She would make friends, she would have a life in the world that compelled and occupied her." Boy, aint that the truth. There's also an interesting discussion about keeping a diary, why, and why one would not destroy it. Haven't read Miller in a long time and I remember now why she imp ...more
Christine Gay
Sep 23, 2012 Christine Gay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The World Below. I must say this is the first novel that made me stay awake ’til late night. I was thrilled how Cath unveiled her Gran’s story and eventually figured out how their lives are actually similar at some points: their lives being a daughter, having lost a mother and their marriages.

The part I wanted the most was that which showed Georgia’s life inside a sanitarium. There maybe no more sanitariums today but the life inside it is actually the same
Feb 05, 2013 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed the book this second time around. And as I read it, I found that they were certain things about the story that were familiar though it took a while to get to that point. There were only a couple of things about it that I wasn't crazy about but the rest of it makes up for it. I love the descriptions. Sue Miller has a talent for writing that I envy. It makes me feel that if I could write, this is how and what I would write about. We get to go on a little adventure of sorts. Solvin ...more
Aug 22, 2012 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In San Fransisco fifty-two year old Catherine is attempting to remake her life after the collapse of her second marriage. When her aunt dies, Catherine inherits her grandmother's house in New England. Could this offer the chance of a new beginning? Catherine quits her job and travels across the country to the old house where her mother's mental instability meant that she spent many years of her childhood sheltering in the apparent tranquillity of her grandparents' world.

Here she begins a process
Lee D'anna
Aug 17, 2014 Lee D'anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I went to the library in search of Sue Miller's newest book; I didn't find it but came away with two others I didn't know she had written. I enjoy her books because for the most part I like the way she portrays her characters - they just seen real to me. Cath, the main character in this book, was no different. A twice divorced teacher in San Francisco, she decides to try living in her Grandmother's house in Vermont that she has inherited after her aunt dies. She lived for a number of years with ...more
Leah Wendt
I liked this book for its probing consideration of how people deal with societal expectations of our personal lives. Miller weaves a narrative of one woman's self-reflective journey to her childhood home where she finds her grandmother's diaries and tries to piece together her mysterious past. The reader is treated to 3rd person scenes from the past that allow us to recognize a deeper reality in contrast to the understanding that the protagonist gains from reading the diary so many years later. ...more
Tammy Frederici
The ending is a disappointment. Multi-generational stories work beautifully....or they stumble along from past to present and back again. The early 1900's in Vermont flowed so well with Georgia's storyline. Current San Francisco with granddaughter Catherine, meh.

Jun 12, 2012 Claire rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I just finished this book. It was passed on to me, which is the only reason I read it. After reading it, I was mad at myself for wasting as much time as I did reading this book. It was poorly written and really had no point. It was about a women, who was trying to figure out her place in life, who goes back to her grandmother's house for a few months. It was boring, and just seemed to go on and on, leaving the reader to think that the ending must be REALLY good and a REALLY good surprise to make ...more
Brian Wadman
A little disappointed. I felt like I was reading a novel that my mother would read, not at all how I felt with Lost In The Forest - I thought was great.
What was wrong with this book? Nothing particularly, while reading it I would've said it seemed predictable, but then the shock I had expected didn't actually happen (a child with her lover at the san) There were significant betrayals and forgiveness, but not much in the way of the details of how Georgia and husband get through this. There is
Mar 24, 2016 Sooz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: momlit
Sue Miller is an intriguing writer. She's a good writer, which I define as able to keep me reading. Her novels that I have read strike me as being frank, unabashed, and unflinching in their self-examination. I imagine a lot of people will find her tendency to be "in her head", constantly examining her own thoughts and articulating them, to be very near to or completely tedious, but I seem to be able to take it. I think it's because I admire how accepting she is of her own musings and her own fee ...more
Candace Marie
It took me a while to read this book as I kept falling asleep while reading it. Something was driving me to push through to the end though, and so I finished it. I liked reading it, but certain parts were bland.
This novel jumps back and forth between the present day with Cath, and the past with her grandmother, Georgia. A history of schizophrenia runs within their family and both characters have to deal with a mother who is gravely ill, as treatment for this complex mental illness was rarely fo
Marlana Portolano
Jul 25, 2014 Marlana Portolano rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I'm so glad I started reading Sue Miller. I love what she does with the past and the present, and with points of view for past and present, that makes her so-familiar characters seem like they are inhabiting two different worlds at once. Yet her prose stays so clear, like the reservoir in this book, under which is submerged an old New England town. I also like it that her characters make middle aged women seem smart and interesting with hard-won (and sometimes accidentally begotten) wisdom.
Maria Menozzi
Even though I gave it three stars, I really enjoyed this novel. I love Miller's work and have for a long time. It grabbed me from the beginning but sort of waned about two thirds through a bit. I enjoyed the past and present intertwining of the story of the grandmother and the granddaughter. I would say parts of this novel felt not deep enough for me as the characters are so well drawn, you wonder more about who they are and what they have to offer the story. I also think maybe there could have ...more
Jun 15, 2015 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh long sigh....... this was just what I needed. Sue Miller is becoming one of my favourite authors. The pace and contemplation of this novel was delightful, her ability to bring the inner voice to life is her strength. Her characters are always so real, believable and flawed. Flawed in the way we actually are, Cath is a women in her early fifties and coming to terms with where her life has settled. She is both looking back and forward when the news she has been left her Grandmothers house arriv ...more
It's not that this book didn't have a good plot or interesting details. Yes, it might be thought of as predictable with the hidden family secrets and the woman in her 50's trying to define herself. It was a neat idea to have Catherine, the main character, narrate her life story and her grandmother's. What bothered me is that I simply didn't care about the characters enough. For me, I have to feel for the characters. This book was BORING to me.
Paula Dembeck
Mar 16, 2016 Paula Dembeck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel spans several generations and focuses on the lives of two women: Georgia Rice and her granddaughter Catherine Hubbard. It begins with Georgia’s grandparents attending the funeral of their daughter and closes with the birth of Catherine’s premature granddaughter. Initially the lives of these women appear to be very different, but as the narrative slowly unfolds, the reader notes the haunting parallels that are embedded in the two stories. And even if initially, Georgia’s life in Vermon ...more
May 05, 2011 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book after reading Miller's "The Senator's Wife" and wanting to read more by her. I really found the imagery in this book fantastic! Miller does an excellent job of placing people in real life scenarios and then giving a provocative twist. The images of cities below a lake and the stories of her grandmother were very engaging, and I kept wanting to find out what would happen next. A great read!
Laurene Powers
Following the death of her grandmother, Catherine-a middle aged divorced teacher with three grown children- decides to take a sabbatical from teaching, rents out her home in San Francisco, and heads to Vermont to spend some time in her grandparents old home where she spent a great deal of her childhood. Both Catherine and her grandmother lost their mothers at a young age. While in Vermont Catherine finds her grandmother's old diary and discovers information about her and her grandfather that she ...more
Jul 15, 2014 Brandie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I am not all that certain what to think about this book. I read the book, and throughout I kept hoping that more of a plot would develop. At one point, I realized I was almost half way though the book and there was no discernible direction for the story. I thought the last 20 or so pages were truly rushed, and when I finished I was left thinking "what did I read, and why?"
Feb 08, 2016 Eliza rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
Loved this story, or actually, two parallel stories of a grandmother as a young girl in the 1920s named Georgia Rice (who had had slight TB as a teenager, was sent to a sanatorium by her doctor, then she married her doctor, even though she was in love with a dying young man), and her granddaughter Cath Hubbard, who comes to her grandparents house in VT, after they die, to try to figure out their life and her own.
She does figure out many things--some not so clear to me--and she ends up going bac
Pamelarbroadley Broadley
Sue Miller is always a great read-- good chick-lit stuff about the interwoven strands of a woman's life-- romance, family, sexuality, profession, personal history. Astute observations about motives, emotions and self growth. Believable details that pull you in to the story.
Nicole Lynn
Apr 08, 2015 Nicole Lynn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"They became a story they told to us in bits and pieces."

That's perhaps the best way to describe this book in it's entirety. It's not the best I've read from Sue Miller, but I have to say, I'm very, very biased when it comes to her writing. I think she adds this kind of soft subtle-ness to her words, using that as a way to make the ordinary lives of her character seem extraordinary enough to hold a story. I'm always impressed with the way she weaves narratives to make them impact one another no
Richard Jespers
Dec 11, 2014 Richard Jespers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent. I love Miller's writing. She stays out of her own way so that she can tell the story, yet she is so eloquent. Great prose style. Wonderful metaphor that controls the novel. There exists so much “life” below our everyday lives—things we don’t “see.”

The town hidden under the reservoir (except for a brief glimpse at various times) is equal to the lives that people keep hidden in their journals, letters, and in their hearts.

The only aspect I couldn’t “buy,” was this: How did the narrator
Jan 28, 2016 Claire rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book - one of the other reviews said there was nothing remarkable about his story, but I found it sweet, and it somehow reminded me of my mother, especially at the end. When Cath went back to Vermont to say goodbye to her dying mother, she described the way she looked almost exactly as the last time I saw my mother before she died.

The story of young Georgia was about a different time when TB and sanitariums were common. My grandparents life was certainly different having been born
Mar 18, 2009 April rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The thing that stuck with me about this novel was the image of those houses below that resevoir. It reminded me of the novel Evidence of Things Unseen.
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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
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