Has Miller developed full, complex characters? If so, how did she accomplish it? Could you easily relate to any of these characters or put yourself in their shoes?
Join Date: 10/15/10
Join Date: 03/25/13
One of the things I love about Miller's writing us the depth and specificity of her characters. They are always complex, flawed and detailed so they seem very real. I relate to them as I would with real people. Sometimes they frustrate, sometimes they impress and always they are interesting.
Join Date: 11/25/12
YES, YES. I relate to the characters from the very first page. It's easy to create a mental picture.
I, too, am a dedicated Miller reader.
Her characters may change during the story --- just as we all do. However there's a reason for it. I do not feel manipulated.
I was disappointed in not understanding Tink and Adrian in this book.
Join Date: 07/29/14
I found I could easily relate to the characters of Sylvie and Alfie (more in my age range!) but not as much to Frankie and her sister. I found Bud to be another well drawn character and could relate to him despite our gender difference as I always dreamed of working for a small town newspaper writing my own column. Never happened, at least not so far, but one can always dream, right?
Join Date: 05/12/11
Join Date: 06/16/11
I found all of the main characters very easy to relate to and also thought the author did a fine job with all the secondary people so that I felt very familiar with this town and its layers and nuances. The summer people versus townie thread was well noted without over emphasis which really impressed me.
Join Date: 08/11/14
I have always found Sue Miller's character development to be one of her strengths. Her characters have their strengths and weaknesses and these show up in their actions and interactions. The Arsonist's characters were the same - although I felt I could understand Frankie and Bud better than the others. Sue Miller paints her characters with flaws and imperfections just as we "regular" non-literary characters display. Although it is easier to note flaws in characters on the written page than it sometimes is in ourselves.
Join Date: 07/29/13
One of the things I liked the best about this book is Miller's characterizations. I thought they were extremely good and showed depth. I felt I could relate to Frankie, Bud and Sylvia the best. I also liked the interplay between Frankie and her mother, although not close I think they finally seemed to start to understand each other a little better by the end of the book.
Join Date: 04/14/11
In one sense, I could relate to Frankie because I am a military brat, and travelled most of my life. On the other side of things, while I guess I enjoyed this book, it was really hard to care about the characters. It felt like we only got a surface dusting of what each character was like, and so much of life is made up of the deeper things. I also thought that the author tried to connect too many primary stories in one. Instead of there being a story that carried through and actually finished, I felt like I was reading three or four different story lines with nothing really resolved. I was left with an incomplete feeling.
Join Date: 06/03/14
In response to keizerfire's comments on difficulty relating to Miller's characters, I agree when she says that the several story lines are left unresolved, thus the reader has an incomplete feeling. Most of us who are putting ourselves in the characters' shoes want to see resolution to the characters' problems. Perhaps this is one reason why the critics gave higher points to The Arsonist than readers did.
Join Date: 08/13/14
I could readily relate to the problems the family had with recognizing the downward spiral towards dementia of the father/husband. Sue Miller has grasped how hard it is to recognize signs of dementia realistically and with compassion.
Join Date: 10/20/10
Sue Miller is a genius at drawing her characters and putting them in situations that show both their strengths and weaknesses. Having said that, I must admit, I didn't easily relate to these characters. I thought Sylvie's resolution to her changed relationship to Alfie, which was not very strong even when Alfie was well, was abrupt and ill-prepared. Frankie and Bud's relationship was only partly resolved in a ragtag way at the end. Many of the less important characters remain fairly sketchy. I would like to have seen a stronger emphasis in the characters on what I think is the most important theme of the book--that "home" for any of us may be somewhat tied to a physical place, but is really "a way of being in the world that felt... [right for each of us]." Home is a space we create for ourselves. In that sense, Sylvie comes the closest to creating the space that is right for her. To do that, she has to get out of Alfie's space, and she can only because he has already lost it to dementia.
Join Date: 12/03/11
I found it easier to relate to the situations than to the characters. For example, at the very beginning, when Miller describes Frankie's feeling of unreality and readjustment on her return to the U.S., I felt an immediate identification. I felt the same way when i returned to the U.S. after only a year away, so I could easy imagine how Frankie felt after 15 years away. Similarly, I related to Bud's desire to get away from the big city and start life over living his dream of running a small town newspaper and fitting into the town itself. Most of all, Sylvie's coping with Alfie's dementia even though she says she never really loved him was so reminiscent of my own mother's and family's struggle with my father's dementia that it hurt. I love about Miller that even if I don't particularly like or relate to the characters per se, i can relate to what's happening to them.
Join Date: 11/14/11
I think that Sylvie was the character that I could identify with the most. She's closest to my age too. Although she was not the most likeable character in the story, she had honest, legitimate feelings about being cast in the role of Alphie's caretaker. She resented Alphie and no longer loved him. But, despite her feelings, she showed patience with him and tried her best to care for him. I think she did still have feelings for him after all the years they had been together. I was glad for her at the end of the book when she found a way to persue some of the things that were important to her.
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