Title: The Amateur Marriage
Genre: Literary fiction
Author: Anne Tyler
Publisher: Ballantine, 2006
Sexy Rating: (behind closed doors)
Description from amazon.com:
They seemed like the perfect couple—young, good-looking, made for each other. The moment Pauline, a stranger to the Polish Eastern Avenue neighborhood of Baltimore (though she lived only twenty minutes away), walked into his mother’s grocery store, Michael was smitten. And in the heat of World War II fervor, they are propelled into a hasty wedding. But they never should have married.
Pauline, impulsive, impractical, tumbles hit-or-miss through life; Michael, plodding, cautious, judgmental, proceeds deliberately. While other young marrieds, equally ignorant at the start, seemed to grow more seasoned, Pauline and Michael remain amateurs. In time their foolish quarrels take their toll. Even when they find themselves, almost thirty years later, loving, instant parents to a little grandson named Pagan, whom they rescue from Haight-Ashbury, they still cannot bridge their deep-rooted differences. Flighty Pauline clings to the notion that the rifts can always be patched. To the unyielding Michael, they become unbearable.
From the sound of the cash register in the old grocery to the counterculture jargon of the sixties, from the miniskirts to the multilayered apparel of later years, Anne Tyler captures the evocative nuances of everyday life during these decades with such telling precision that every page brings smiles of recognition. Throughout, as each of the competing voices bears witness, we are drawn ever more fully into the complex entanglements of family life in this wise, embracing, and deeply perceptive novel.
I read this book for my neighborhood book club and I did so reluctantly, thinking it would be another literary tome that would have me struggling to finish. Surprise! I started reading at 8 pm and stayed up until 4 am to finish. I was riveted to the story of Michael and Pauline.
This is the story of two people who loved each other but were totally unsuited to be married. Anne Tyler makes every nuance come alive and we ache for these two suffering souls. It is no surprise that the writing here is exquisite, Tyler won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988 and has not lost her touch. The characters in this novel are familiar to all of us, from the bitter, demanding mother-in-law to the disenfranchised daughter, they are not caricatures but real people with real lives and their own seeming insurmountable problems. Tyler’s perception is also shown in how the character of the son, George, seems to thrive and become successful in spite of the chaos of his home life.