Thursday, May 29, 2008

Matrimony by Joshua Henkin

Matrimony is a book about Julian, a high society kid, who decides to stray from his family path by going to a small college instead of Yale like his father. Julian also wants to be a writer, rather than a business man. While in college, he meets his best friend in a creative writing course. The two later meet their future lives and we follow them through the next 15 years while they go through the ups and downs associated with any life, and definitely any marriage.

I'm a little ambivalent about how I felt toward Joshua Henkin's novel. I really enjoyed the book, but only after I got past the first couple of chapters. In the beginning I had a really hard time connecting with any of the characters, for the mere fact that I kept focusing on Julian, the main character, and his super naive niceness. For someone who is supposed to have been raised in a blue blood family in New York City, he's a bit too clueless. He walks people's dogs and becomes good friends with the Chinese grocers near his school. I mean, I know he's supposed to be disgruntled about his upbringing, but I find it hard for someone who was raised in prep schools and high society to be so completely transformed within minutes of moving away from home. I think my difficulty with this aspect of the book may have been made worse by the description on the inside cover, which makes it seem as though Mia, Julian's future wife, was the one to lead him through this transformation.

I don't know. Anyway, once I got past my issues with Julian's character I really did enjoy the book. I loved that it was just snapshots of his life, allowing me to fill in my own ideas of what happened in the in between time. I also was able to really identify with Mia's character, which made the book even more enjoyable for me (and painful at some points). I like that Henkin takes this group of people form college and gives them all extremely different personalities and then brings them all together. It's kind of like he has someone for each of us to identify with. It kind of reminds me of the suggestions in girly magazines that every woman needs four friends (the listener, the partier, etc.).

So, even though I had some issues with this book, I'd still recommend it. It was a quick read (only took me two days, even with my new job) and had some great scenes (although I found myself wondering whether PETA was popular in 1987 and I didn't know breast cancer was such a big deal back then. It was really hard for me to wrap my head around the time difference because it isn't so far in the past).

Please check back here tomorrow for my interview with Joshua Henkin, the author of Matrimony.

Also, don't forget that Saturday we will be discussing Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. I'm really looking forward to what you all thought of the book.

This book has also been reviewed by:
LisaMM at Books on the Brain
Julie P. at BookingMama
Everyday I Write the Book
Fresh Ink Books


Julie P. said...

I don't know if you are interested, but here's a link to my review:

LisaMM said...

I reviewed it too.. here's the link:

I didn't understand your statement about why breast cancer was such a big deal in 1987.. is it not a big deal now? It is around here!!

Becca said...

Thanks ladies, I'll put your links up right away.

Lisa: I guess I mis-spoke. I didn't mean that breast cancer wasn't a big deal. What I meant is that it was so life threatening. My grandma got breast cancer a few years back and now she's fine (missing a breast, but fine). I guess I just thought it was one of those cancers that most people survive.

Cancer is something that runs in my family (who doesn't know someone with cancer these days) and a huge fear of mine, so I didn't mean to downplay the disease or minimize it with my comment.

LisaMM said...

Becca, it totally depends on when you discover it and what stage it is. The 5 year survival rate for stage 4 breast cancer is only 20%. Diagnostic techniques are better now and awareness is too.. but breast cancer is still a major killer of women.

My best friend's mom died of breast cancer last year. She had just hit her 5 year point (a big milestone) when they found the cancer in another part of her body (liver) and she died 3 mos. later. It was stage 3 when the breast cancer was discovered.

Anyway! I'm climbing off my soapbox now.

Becca said...

Lisa: Heh. Don't think of it as a soapbox. It's important to know this stuff. That's why we have conversations, yes? I didn't realize it could still be so serious, so I appreciate it ... although it doesn't help much with my paranoia about getting cancer ...

lisamm said...

This is from the breast cancer foundation, and this page says survival rates for stage 4 are only 16%

Becca said...

Lisa: Wow! Thanks for the info. I'm shocked to learn that the survival rate is so low for some cases. I'm going to check out the link.

Sandra said...

I enjoyed hearing your opinions on Matrimony. PETA was created in 1980 by the way, and was very famous (sometimes infamous) in the 80s for the actions it took to protect animals. I reviewed this book too at Fresh Ink Books and will leave my link in case it interests you.

Becca said...

Thanks Sandra! I'll add your link to the post.