Sue Miller’s first novel The Good Mother was published in 1986 to effusive praise from many reviewers; it was on a number of best-seller lists for much of that year. Her second novel, Family Pictures (1990), also was a best-seller. Her subsequent novels, For Love (1993) and The Distinguished Guest (1995), have generally been well received but not so enthusiastically as her first two. Her novel While I was Gone (1999) has sold well and received modern critical praise.
Sue Miller’s novel Family Pictures was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1991. She has received a Bunting Institute Fellowship from Radcliffe, a McDowell Fellowship, and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.
Sue Miller writes short stories as well as novels. A film adaptation of the title story from her collection Inventing the Abbotts, and Other Stories (1987) was released in 1997. Her short stories have been published in magazines such as The Atlantic Monthly, Mademoiselle, and Ploughshares. Miller has also written a memoir about her father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease in which she reveals her frustration that she could do nothing to stop his deterioration and her difficult reconciliation as he succumbed.
Sue Miller received a Boston University Creative Writing Fellowship in 1979. Her writing won her a Bunting Institute Fellowship in 1983, and the extended time to focus that the fellowship provided made it possible for her to write The Good Mother. Miller received a Pushcart Honorable Mention for a short story in 1984, and in that same year the Massachusetts Art Council also gave her an award. She has been the recipient of both Guggenheim and MacDowell fellowships as well.
Miller’s career as a novelist was launched by her very public success with The Good Mother. Family Pictures was a National Book Critics Circle Award nominee in 1991, and in 1999, Miller’s visibility as a writer was further enhanced when her novel While I Was Gone became an Oprah’s Book Club selection. Miller’s work merits recognition as it continually grapples with problems central to family life and intimate personal relationships, including the state of marriage. American social practices have changed markedly in the decades since the 1960’s, and Miller crafts stories that capture the vitality and challenges of those alterations.
Ebert, Roger. “Joie de Vivre Missing from Cardboard ‘Abbotts’.” The Chicago Sun-Times, April 4, 1997, p. 37. In this review of the film version of “Inventing the Abbotts,” well-known film critic Roger Ebert says the picture’s story and its values and style are inspired by the 1950’s. Argues that the film is haunted by a story problem, for it is not about anything but itself; the characters are so preoccupied by the twists of the plot they have no other interests.
Gussow, Mel. “Sue Miller Discovers a Trove of Domesticity.” The New York Times, March 8, 1999, p. E1. This general article, based on an interview and written on the occasion of the publication of Miller’s While I Was Gone, provides a biographical sketch, discusses critical response to Miller’s work, and comments on the novel’s source in the life of Katherine Ann Power, a 1960’s activist involved in a robbery and the killing of a policeman in Boston.
Hirsch, Marianne. Family Frames: Photography, Narrative, and Postmemory. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997. Miller’s work is discussed in a study of family and photographs in contemporary literature and art.
McManus, Barbara F. “Anna and Demeter: The Myth of the Good Mother.” In The Anna Book, edited by Mickey Pearlman. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1992. Compares Miller’s novel to the parallel Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone...
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