For Love Critical Essays

Sue Miller

For Love

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

FOR LOVE gradually dissolves the steely emotional barriers protecting journalist Lottie Gardner’s fragile heart as she prepares her childhood home for sale. Through a series of pivotal events, Lottie discovers the subtle connections between love, pain, and death which have long influenced her personal drama. These include a fatal car accident, a painful cavity which grows to root canal proportions, and dashed hopes for rekindling the fading romance in Lottie’s six-month-old marriage via a weekend rendezvous with her husband, among others. Lottie is reactive to the events which invade the solitude she experiences while remodeling her mother’s house with her college-bound son until she acknowledges that her marriage is worth fighting for despite her husband’s infatuation with the memory of his deceased first wife.

As usual, Miller creates evocative characters, interweaving Lottie’s recollections with subjective observations of her immediate world. Through Lottie’s eyes we meet her brother Cameron, son Ryan, and husband Jack, and explore the alcohol-influenced emotional scars inflicted by her now-senile mother during Lottie’s formative years.

Another significant character in Lottie’s forty-fifth summer is her former neighbor and childhood nemesis Elizabeth. Recently returned to her own mother’s house to escape an unfaithful husband, the “perfect” Elizabeth provokes first Lottie’s jealousy, later her compassion.

Miller’s literary metaphors are simple but far from subtle. The pain of Lottie’s decaying tooth echoes the reopening of her emotional scars. She is unable to work on a magazine article about “love” due to writer’s block, finally abandoning it as her own quest for love evolves from her reluctant role in Cameron’s obsessive affair with Elizabeth. In the end, Lottie ignores a throbbing tooth to drive hundreds of miles overnight to fight for her marriage, accepting at last that it is impossible to experience love without also risking pain.

Sources for Further Study

Chicago Tribune. April 11, 1993, XIV, p.3.

The Christian Science Monitor. June 17, 1993, p.14.

Los Angeles Times. April 2, 1993, p. E6.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVIII, April 11, 1993, p.7.

Newsweek. CXXI, April 19, 1993, p.63.

Publishers Weekly. CCXL, January 11, 1993, p.51.

Time. CXLI, May 3, 1993, p.79.

The Wall Street Journal. May 10, 1993, p. A9.

The Washington Post Book World. XXIII, April 4, 1993, p.4.

Women’s Review of Books. X, July, 1993, p.33.