Friday, September 24, 2010

Matrimony by Joshua Henkin

**You can win a copy of this novel here**

Matrimony: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries)Title/Author: Matrimony by Joshua Henkin
Publisher/Year: Pantheon 2007
How I Got This Book: The author contacted me on Goodreads
Rating: I'm not doing a star rating for this one. I couldn't decide. See my recommendation in the last two paragraphs to see if this novel is for you.

This is one of those books that I knew, while I was reading it, I was going to have a hard time reviewing and I realized it was because I was getting all apprehensive about having to give it a star rating because I felt like I just couldn't. Sometimes things just aren't that cut and dry. I am refusing to commit to a star rating for this review.

When I received this book, I really wasn't sure that I'd like it. The title turned me off for some reason. I'm weird like that. A title could make me want to pick up a book or pass it by no matter if the book is crap or really great. Am I the only one like this? Anyways, this book was one of those that exceeded my expectations.

This novel centers around Julian Wainwright, a privileged kid that just doesn't fit into the mold of your typical trust fund baby like many of his prep school classmates. Much to the dismay of  his investment banker father, Julian is passionate about becoming a writer of great novels. The novel chronicles Julian's life through college and mid-adulthood as he finds friendship, love and success and learns how hard it can be hold on to it all.

I really enjoyed this novel. The pace was perfect for me, for the most part, and the characters were believable and interesting. I thought the relationships between Mia, his girlfriend turned wife, and Carter, his best friend, held the sort of family dynamic that I appreciate as someone who has built a family full of great friends. The familial relationships explored in this novel seemed genuine and I could relate to many of the issues constructed in the novel.

Henkin has a knack for delivering memorable characters. I love when I become fond of a minor character, who might just be in the book for a chapter or two, but their impact on the character weaves itself through the pages of the character's life. I loved Mr. Kang (the owner of the grocery store Julian goes to in college), Mr. Chesterfield (his writing professor) and Henry (a fellow grad student that we only meet for a little bit). These characters were crafted to be those types of people that we all encounter in our lives--the ones that are there for a little while but our memory of them is lasting and we think fondly of them.

I was really interested in how the college life was portrayed as I can never seem to find novels with main characters that are in college. The college life, despite the fact it was set in the late 80's, seemed to be pretty realistic aside from the fact it all seemed so much more formal and sophisticated than my college experience. At the heart of it was those late night pigout sessions at diners, laughing until you cry and doing some of the most random things you will ever do in your life. I also thought Henkin really portrayed that feeling of anxiety at being propelled into the adult world. They are all the things I'm going through right now--the prospect of an engagement, figuring out what I want to do with my life and just finding who I am as an adult.

Some of the reviews I had seen for this book deemed this book as boring and this made me worried. After reading the book, I would have to disagree. I am a fan of quiet stories that deal with ordinary lives but are interesting and thought-provoking in their own way. This book, for me, is like listening to some quiet, soulful woman sitting at a piano in the corner of a lounge. I am relaxed, maybe sipping a glass of wine, and enjoying the soothing sound of the voice in the background as I feel the love or the loss she sings about penetrating deeply within me. I am not entertained in the same way that I would be after attending a flashy, hip shaking Lady Gaga concert. There is a need for both of those in my life.

Similarly, it all depends on what you are looking for in a book when you read this. If you are looking for an action packed "Lady Gaga-esque" book that is plot based and keeps your heart racing, I would not recommend this to you. If you enjoy a novel with a beautiful sense of quietness that peers into the lives of everyday people, then `I think you would really enjoy this novel.

Also reviewed on my personal blog-- The Perpetual Page-Turner


  1. I don't think I would have picked up this book based on the title either...I think because the title sounds too "grown up" to me. Does that make sense? But it sounds like an interesing novel. Sometimes you need a 'quiet' book, something that is relaxing.

  2. That is EXACTLY why I didn't want to pick it up. It just seemed like something I couldn't relate to but, for the most part, I did find myself relating to it!

  3. I just wanted to say that "Lady Gaga-esque" is a great term! So perfect for describing that certain kind of book.


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