Wednesday, April 15, 2009

94 (2009 #19): Matrimony

by Joshua Henkin

I won this book in a ReadingGroupGuides.com giveaway, and it includes a chance to do a chat (via conference call) with the author in a book club meeting.

However, I'm not sure if I will be recommending this book to my book club. It was...just okay. I'm not sure there is a lot to talk about, especially for our members, who are all pretty much my age or older, especially when the book is about a couple who are 17 in 1986 when the book begins.

They are Justin and Mia, attending fictional Graymont College in Northington, Massachusetts, where they fall in love and marry right about the time they graduate, mostly because Mia's mother is dying of cancer. Flash forward about four years, and now they are in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Mia has earned a masters degree and is now working on a doctorate to become a psychotherapist. Julian is trying to write a novel and teaching English composition on the side. Julian flies out to Berkeley, California, to visit his old Graymont roommate, and learns he and Mia slept together. Julian leaves Mia (but they don't divorce) and goes to Iowa City, Iowa, to participate in the famous Writer's Workshop there. They get back together and wind up in New York City, where Mia is a practicing therapist and Julian is still working on his novel. The book ends in 2005 when they are 36, back in Northington for a reunion. Julian is about to have his first novel published, they have a dog and are expecting a baby.

That's most of the plot. The book is mostly a character study. Perhaps it was the characters' generation, perhaps it was the fact that Julian was wealthy enough to afford to take 20 years to complete his novel, but I just couldn't care about these characters. I'll have to see if anyone else in my book club has read the book and if they are interested in discussing it. (Now, if I'd won one of the grand prizes, 12 copies of the book plus an author chat, we'd definitely be discussing it!)

I did think it was interesting that this book had a similar structure as American Wife, with parts designated by where one or both characters were living/visiting at the time. I'm also intrigued by the cover. My paperback has the design above, with the pairs of shoes that bug me, because the woman's blue shoes look like that of a little girl (although perhaps that is because my feet and those of my husband are about the same size). I find I prefer the cover of the hardback edition, with the toothbrushes:

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