Matrimony is the story of Julian and Mia. The book takes you through their meeting (in the laundry room on campus), through their courtship, through their marriage, through all the trials and tribulations of a couple over the course of a two plus decades.
O.k., you might be thinking, "what's the big deal about a book like that, Jen?" And had I just picked this book up and read the book jacket, I might have thought the same thing. But, I read several rave reviews written by other bloggers and then I won a copy of the novel over at The Book Chase. It took me awhile to get around to reading it, but I'm so glad that I did.
At times I felt like a bit of a voyeur, peaking in on the lives of Julian Wainwright and Mia Mendelsohn. They go through a lot of the normal ups and downs of life, and a few of the not so normal ups and downs. But their realism simply makes it easy to step right into their lives and make yourself at home.
Henkin is a character writer. There is simply no other way to put it. He writes in such a way that you can feel the characters' jubilation's and you can feel their anguish. They are so well developed that you might ask yourself at the end of the book, "is this a fiction novel or is this an actual biography?"
I laughed out loud reading about Julian and his best friend Carter in their writing workshop. Their professor was an absolute stitch. I ached for Mia as she watched her mother die, and I equally ached for Julian when he experienced the ultimate betrayal. I celebrated their victories and mourned their losses because over the course of the novel, they became my friends. It takes a powerful writer to create such characters.
Julian is a writer and I think Julian's take on writing mirrors the concept of this novel:
There had emerged in American fiction a strain of excess, he believed, a group of knowing authors whose very sentence seemed to shout, "Look how smart I am." He had nothing against muscular prose; it was the flexing of those muscles that he objected to, and, along with it, a disregard for character, which, for him, was what fiction was about.
There's no muscle-flexing in this novel, but it is muscular. There's nothing showy or excessive. The language isn't elitist. Instead there is simplicity and beauty that compounds to create an incredible piece of literature.
There's no mystery to this novel. Instead it is an intimate look at the trials and tribulations, the compromises, the emotions and the depth of a relationship between two people. Sometimes figuring that all out is the greatest mystery of all. I truly enjoyed this book and it has left a lasting impression on me.