Picks and Pans Review: For Love

updated 04/26/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/26/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Sue Miller

He's the kind of person—I'm sure you know this kind of person," confides Elizabeth to Lottie, describing her estranged spouse, "who simply won't acknowledge the effect his behavior has on other people." The irony is that no one is as guilty of such wanton self-absorption as the casually cruel, capricious Elizabeth. Unless, of course, it is every other character in the story. Miller's third novel, like The Good Mother (1986) and Family Pictures (1990), throbs with the infinite pain of the mundane.

Heroine Lottie Gardner is spending her summer cleaning out the closets of her demented, alcoholic mother and watching her peculiar brother, Cameron, take up with Elizabeth, who has also returned to the Cambridge, Mass., neighborhood where they spent their childhood. Lottie, a middle-age writer trying to avoid her crumbling second marriage, has her own problems sorting out what to do for love.

There's a terrible crime at the heart of the book, which, like the smaller crimes, happens by accident. The drama Miller creates is found in character, not events. And though For Love is both less gripping and less ambitious than her previous novels, its unflinching details and brutal appraisals make it her most powerful portrait of domestic disarray. (HarperCollins, $23)

From Our Partners