I was lucky enough to win a copy of Matrimony ages ago from My Friend Amy and received a signed copy from Joshua Henkin and I finally settled in to read it. Thanks to Joshua and Amy.
Matrimony for me started out slow but once I got more involved in the characters lives I was hooked and kept reading until I finished it. This novel is beautifully written and the story line flows from when the characters are young and in college to when they are adults facing real life problems with the story itself spanning 20 years. The characters are well developed and likeable. This isn’t a fast paced story though. It is much more about the characters than anything major going on. For me, it was a story about real life with real people that I grew to care about.
The story is focused mainly on Julian and Mia. They meet and fall in love in college, marry young and proceed to grow into their lives together. Along the way Mia’s mother passes away from breast cancer, Julian struggles with his writing and ultimately tragic secrets come to light that threaten to destroy Julian and Mia’s marriage. The only complaint I have is I would have liked to see more of an emotional tie in to Julian’s and Mia’s marriage falling apart. There was no discussion of the problems or even a marriage counsellor-Julian just walked out for more than 15 months. I would hope that after a longtime marriage both individuals would make more of an effort to hold it together or at least see if that was possible.
My favorite character was Mia. I felt such a connection to her. It may be because of losing several people that I was very close with to breast cancer myself but my heart went out to her both when she lost her mother and then later had her own health issues. I think the author did a good job of portraying the grief and horror that accompanies this illness or even the threat of it. I also admired Mia’s quiet strength because in the face of her marriage breaking up she handled it all very calmly and gracefully. Something I can say in all honesty I couldn’t do.
The characters in this novel aren’t perfect. As a matter of a fact they are quite flawed and in that lies the strength of the story. We see them grow and try to find themselves. We see them try to work their way through problems-real issues that happen to all of us in everyday life. They make real mistakes and learn by them. That is what I liked about this novel. We see that decisions made or not made as young people in college or otherwise often form the basis for the rest of our lives.
This story has so much going on. It would be perfect for a book club I think. It isn’t only about marriage. I think it’s a novel about all relationships-siblings, parents and friends. It’s about life and life has it’s ups and downs as does a marriage. All anyone can really do is keep plugging away at it and hope that things turn out for the best. It’s about moving forward and forgiving when you’re not sure you can.
I don’t know that this novel is for everyone. If you like a fast paced novel, this may not be for you. If you like a real life story that keeps you interested because of it’s calm and relaxing way that let’s you into it’s characters lives so completely that you grow to genuinely care for them, then you will love this novel. For me, I really enjoyed it. I won’t soon forget Julian and Mia. Truthfully I would have liked to know where they were maybe five years from now-did they stay together-did things work out for them? I guess since I was really rooting for them to stay together that’s the ending I’ll choose.