Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Review: Matrimony by Joshua Henkin

Here is a summary of Matrimony from the Reading Group Guides website:

Matrimony explores themes of love and friendship, sickness and health, money and ambition, desire and tensions of faith --- the kinds of big issues that make it perfect for a book club discussion.

Matrimony starts in 1987, when Julian Wainwright, an aspiring novelist and the Waspy son of New York old money, meets beautiful, Jewish Mia Mendelsohn in the college laundry room. So begins a love affair that, spurred on by family tragedy, carries the couple to graduation and beyond, through a series of college towns, spanning twenty years. Matrimony is about what it's like to fall in love when you're young and to try to stay in love as you reach middle age. As People Magazine said: "Charming.... Henkin keeps you reading with original characters, witty dialogue, and a view that marriage, for all its flaws, is worth the trouble."

My Review:
Matrimony by Joshua Henkin brought us through the lives of a couple that met in college and through the years of their struggling marriage.  Struggling, is the key word here because marriage can be hard at times and I believe it's how we deal with these struggles in everyday life that help make a marriage stronger.  It's not just the good husband, good wife, successful jobs that make a marriage, but the little things that occur every day that matter, and Henkin did a great job of portraying that in this book.

Julian Wainwright comes from a privileged family when he first goes off to college.  With the help of his writing professor, Mr. Chesterfield, he becomes close friends with Carter Heinz, who comes from the opposite end of the economic spectrum.  They build a lasting friendship throughout their college careers and it's thanks to Carter that Julian is able to finally meet Mia.  Before too long, Carter and his new girlfriend Pilar, and Julian and Mia seem to be inseparable.  When the relationships start to get serious they find themselves spending vacations with their girlfriends at their homes.

I enjoyed how this story not only gave us a glimpse of Julian's life, but also of the life that Mia had come from.  Mia had been very close to her parents but seemed to struggle with her relationship with her sister after she left for college.  Later in the novel the two girls do end up being a bit closer because of circumstances, but they each confess that they wish they could be closer yet.  This was probably my favorite part of the book, mostly because I had a good relationship with my sister as an adult and she is no longer with me.

When Julian and Mia decided to get married in the book, I must admit that I was a bit surprised.  I thought that they were making an irrational decision at the time and not thinking clearly.  This possibly could have set the tone for the marriage to encounter more struggles down the road.  They both seemed to make concessions for each other that they were not happy with that almost destroyed their marriage completely.

I enjoyed how this novel truly portrayed how easily it is to make a wrong decision within your marriage and personal life.  We usually only see the outside shell of people and can only comment on how easy things are for some of them.  And on the opposite spectrum we can't believe how others can make such stupid decisions.  I have come to realize that these decisions are all dependent upon everyone's specific situations so is it really right for me to judge them?  This book really gave me a lot to think about regarding marriage, relationships, friendships, and forgiveness and I'm looking forward to discussing this with my book club.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  I read this book for my own entertainment and I will also be discussing it with my book club.


Greg Zimmerman said...

I enjoyed this book, too. I think you're right - it is an unusually honest and comprehensive look at a relationship, but Henkin manages to make it fun to read and interesting.

bermudaonion said...

I really enjoyed this book, too - it felt very real to me as I read it.

Marce said...

This one does sound good, great review JoJo

Missy B. said...

I like the cover...very cute! The story sounds good as well. Nice review, Jo-Jo!

Serena said...

I liked this book as well, but the most interesting character was the writer for me.

Ti said...

I enjoyed this one as well. It wasn't the type of read that had you flipping pages but it was quiet and strong at the same time.

DCMetroreader said...

I love relationship novels that focus on the small stuff that adds up to a life. This sounds like a great read!

Bybee said...

An interesting look at marriage. Henkin's tone is so quiet, one doesn't often realize that there's more going on with the characters than first meets the eye.

Wanda said...

21 years and three children into my own marriage, this is probably a book I should read and could easily relate to ... well, maybe not the Jewish or privileged Waspy husband part, but I definitely get the hard work that goes into making a marriage worth the effort.

Enjoyed your review, Jo-Jo!

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

Very nice review. I enjoyed this back when I read it, but I had some issues with the characterization. I wanted him go go a lot deeper with them than he did, but I do remember enjoying the plot.

Anna said...

Glad you enjoyed this one. I won it ages ago but haven't read it yet.

Diary of an Eccentric

Veens said...

I loved it too. It felt very real to me and it was just timely as I was going to be married then, when I was reading this : ):)

I gifted my copy to a friend and she loved it too.

I am glad u liked and enjoyed it too!