Synopses & Reviews
It is 1973 and Watergate is on everyone’s lips. Lucy Painter is a children's book illustrator and a single mother of two. She leaves New York and the married father of her children to live in a tightly knit Washington neighborhood in the house where she grew up and where she discovered her father’s suicide. Lucy hopes for a fresh start, but her life is full of secrets: her children know nothing of her father’s death or the identity of their own father. As the new neighbors enter their insular lives, her family’s safety and stability become threatened.
From a writer whose “unique presentation of human experience makes reading a delight” (Elizabeth Strout), You Are the Love of My Life is a story of how shame leads to secrets, secrets to lies, and how lies stand in the way of human connection.
" takes place in a cozy little neighborhood in Washington, where every family tries to conceal not-so-cozy secrets under tattered falsehoods. It's a memorable study of how lies can enslave people and truth set them free." Kirkus Reviews
"The corrosive power of family secrets is at the heart of this gripping tale--a beautifully written page-turner that kept me in its thrall until the very end." Kirkus Reviews
"I couldn't put this book down! From its opening pages, which hint at the mysteries and complexities of the human heart, right until the final pages when Susan Richards Shreve reveals her characters' secrets and disappointments and hopes, I found completely irresistible." Dani Shapiro
"The high price of a truth concealed is at the center of this remarkable, ultimately hopeful novel. Susan Shreve reveals her characters and their lives with empathy, wisdom, and, best of all, not a whiff of condescension ." Dani Shapiro
"Susan Shreve is a terrific storyteller who always brings her characters to vivid, sympathetic life. is my favorite of her books." Ron Rash
"Graceful moments of connection nestled within tales of discord and deception . . . subtly convincing. " Donna Rifkind
"Starred review. Handles complex themes of identity, loyalty, privacy, and commitment with finesse, delicacy, and insight . . . a worthy book club recommendation." Washington Post
"With her engaging tale and prose as fluid as Sue Miller's or Anna Quindlen's, if quirkier, Shreve hits the commercial bull's eye." Booklist
"If you haven't discovered Shreve before, and you like the novels of writers like Sue Miller and Anne Tyler, you should try her now.... It's plot driven in the best way: You want to know what happens to these characters because they've gotten inside your skin.... This one is perfect book club fodder. Much Big Fiction is being published this fall, but may speak to you more." Hilma Wolitzer
From a writer whose unique presentation of human experience makes reading a delight (Elizabeth Strout), You Are the Love of My Life is a story of how shame leads to secrets, secrets to lies, and how lies stand in the way of human connection. "
It is 1973 and Watergate is on everyone's lips. Lucy Painter is a children's book illustrator and a single mother of two. She leaves New York and the married father of her children to live in a tightly knit Washington neighborhood in the house where she grew up and where she discovered her father's suicide. Lucy hopes for a fresh start, but her life is full of secrets: her children know nothing of her father's death or the identity of their own father. As the new neighbors enter their insular lives, her family's safety and stability become threatened. From a writer whose "unique presentation of human experience makes reading a delight" (Elizabeth Strout), is a story of how shame leads to secrets, secrets to lies, and how lies stand in the way of human connection.
For fans of Sue Miller, a finely wrought novel of family secrets and the desire for sustaining love.
"Spare, elegant and absolutely riveting. . . . Cancel those dinner plans--you'll want to keep reading."--Joanna Powell,
About the Author
In Conversation: Susan Richards Shreve and Elizabeth Strout
The Center for Fiction, September 25, 2012
Elizabeth Strout: I was interested in something you said: that you write ‘from a distance.
Susan Richards Shreve: One thing I have noticed is that I pay attention to reviews – even though I hate bad reviews, who doesn’t? I pay attention to criticism repeated. And I have became conscious of point of view in my fiction which sometimes reflects the fact that my life started in the theater, with the plan to be a director. And I think that in the theater from the standpoint of the audience, the point of view is from a distance. As a playwright, you imagine the story at a distance, the characters moving about on a stage. As a novelist, the action played out in a scene on the stage of my mind. In this novel, I wanted to close the gap between the reader and the characters so I wrote it in close in third person from three points of view. And what I really love in your work is the way you can take characters with all of their flaws and break our hearts.
ES: I just love to break hearts. I was interested in that whole distance thing, because for me, it always has to be the right combination of feeling deeply inside their experience, and keeping your distance.
SRS: And I also think that a book starts, probably for all of us, in different ways, and is kind of different every day. It’s instinctive and it feels right, you just know it when it feels right. I’ve certainly started many books again and again and again because they didn’t.
ES: I know that feeling of it feeling right, but I don’t have it very often.
SRS: You’ve written a lot about northern New England, and I certainly feel that’s a voice that is so clear to you, especially the directness of it. Do you feel that, for you, place is an important thing?
ES: Well I think it has to be; it took me a long time to figure that out. It took me 30 years of living away from Maine to figure out that, ‘oh yeah, place is actually really important,’ or at least it is to me. But to me as a writer, voice is most important, like who’s telling the story, what’s the sound, how is it falling on the reader’s ear, and can you stay with it, can you enjoy it, can you enter it, can you abide with it. So finding the voice is always the hardest part for me. It took me a long time to realize that where I came from has its own particular kind of voice – I mean, every place has its own particular kind of voice.
SRS: Well I’m sort of very jealous of that because when you grown up in Washington, D.C., one of the things that you learn very quickly is, lose any accent that you have. And it’s a place of institutional architecture and that sort of seeps into a lot of parts of Washington.
Audience Question #1: I’d love to hear from each of you what the origins of the books were, what the starting point was.
ES: That’s actually a good question because I’ve recently been going through old drafts, and one thing I realize is that this book I’ve completed now was originally sort of attached to Abide with Me. And [the two books] couldn’t be more different, so it’s surprising to me to find that they had some original germ that obviously separated into two very, very different stories, meaning two very, very different voices. So I’m always surprised at how long something’s been hanging around my mind before it actually arrives.
SRS: You are the Love of My Life started in an effort to write a funny book about a bunch of women in love with the same man who was unattainable – and I lost interest in that at about page ten. I am from a very story-telling family, and my brother and I were going through our parents’ things, and what we did find was that the stories we had been told [as children] were not true. So this book is a book that takes place in 1973 with Watergate and the Paris Peace Accords and an atmosphere of public lies. And this is about private lives; the characters are all harboring something that they don’t want anyone to know about. So [my brother and I] found out that someone who had been grand in our lives, was not only grand, but actually in jail. And my own children are now grown up, and they have children, and I just became very conscious of the importance of the stories that you pass down, because they take on a kind of mythic importance in the mind of a child.
Audience Question #2: When you’re beginning a work, and you have an idea that you want to develop, do you know where you’re going from the beginning, or does it just take off in the writing?
ES: I never know where it’s going. I might have a vague thought of where I think it might go, and I’m usually wrong. I very much write from the sentence – whatever keeps coming out of the froth of that sentence. It either begins to be just worthless and foolish –which happens most of the time – or something will come out and I’ll think ‘Oh, that’s something that I really want to be saying.’
SRS: Actually it’s more mysterious to me now than it was when I was young writer. I would sort of love to know where I was going. The great joy of writing is the mystery – maybe you did know where you were going, but it hadn’t yet surfaced in your mind.
ES: I’ve written four books now, and with each one I’ve wondered ‘How will this end?’ and with each one I’ve thought, ‘Just have faith and it will show up, if you keep writing with some sense of truthfulness.’
Audience Question #3: Does it worry you, as it does me, that so few Americans are reading, and among them so few are reading so-called literary fiction?
SRS: I think that there have always been very few readers of literary fiction, and I actually am slightly optimistic about the fact that people will download it on their Kindle. The thing that worries me even more this year is – I teach at a university, and we were asked to ‘justify’ the English department.
ES: All these things worry me a lot. But I can either be a storyteller, and put all my energy into writing the best story I can, or look up and see things about the business and about the world.
Audience Question # 4: When you say you try to look for the ‘better’ sentences in your story, can you qualify what you mean by ‘better’?
ES: I think half your training as a writer goes into recognizing that ‘this is a better sentence than this.’
SRS: It feels natural. When I’m writing badly, I’ll think to myself ‘Just say it.’ I used to say to my students, ‘What are you trying to say; just tell me!’