Review: The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer

imagedbcgi2“We think we know the ones we love.”

The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer is about Pearlie and Holland, a young couple living in San Francisco in the 1950s with their invalid son, a victim of polio. They sleep in separate rooms and don’t communicate well, but Pearlie says (in reference to Holland) “I loved you like a field on fire.”  Holland, having recently returned from the war, has health issues, and Pearlie, the dutiful wife, works hard to ensure nothing will upset him. She smooths over the rough edges of life and makes everything nice. So into this walks Buzz, a handsome friend from Holland’s past, who has the potential and ability to blow the lid off this happy bubble of domesticity.  Soon Pearlie is faced with a wrenching decision that could change all of their lives.

The era in which this is written plays an enormous role in the book. The repressed social and cultural conditions of America in the 1950s dictated the way the characters would behave in certain situations. Pearlie’s passiveness and her unwillingness to speak with her husband about intimate details of their marriage drove me crazy, but seemed true to her character and to the times. While the whole story revolves around Holland, he’s hardly there. I wanted him to take a stand, make a statement, be present in the pages, and he really wasn’t. It’s all Pearlie and the inaccurate assumptions that she makes.

There are some big “reveals” in the book that challenged me as a reader.  I’d made certain assumptions, too, which turned out to be wrong.  And then I had to ask myself, why did I assume that?

It’s difficult to review this book without giving it away, so I’ll just say that I enjoyed it. I didn’t exactly love it, but I’m glad I read it. Parts of it were quite beautiful and bittersweet, some passages were exquisite. I suppose you could call it lyrical, nuanced, subtle. It’s all those things.  It also made an interesting statement about the unknowable nature of even our closest relationships.

I know many people have read this recently, and if you have read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ve made a point to avoid the reviews so that they wouldn’t influence my feelings on it, but now I’m ready to know what others think.  If you’ve read it, did you love it?  Hate it?  Somewhere in between?  Let me know!

For more information on Andrew Sean Greer, visit his website HERE.

16 Responses

  1. I’m with you on this one. I was really glad I read it and felt like some of it was brilliantly written. But then Greer seemed to think that everything he was writing was brilliant and get a little carried away. It’s another one of those books that aim to teach us how important communication is. What did you think of the ending?

  2. Your review is fantastic, but I’m on the fence about the book.

    • Thanks, Kathy. I know what you mean.. and aren’t those reviews the hardest to write? when you’re torn about it? I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts on it.

  3. I did like the ending. Like so many other things in the book, it was a surprise!

  4. I’ve been waiting for your review of this one, Lisa. I’m really curious about it. The characters do sound frustrating, but I have to admit that your review has me intrigued.

  5. i’ve seen this one all over lately–it’s garnered some good reviews. i’m putting it on the list…right after i finish my other 24 tbrs.🙂

  6. I have this one on my to-read list – it’s not very long, I should just get on with it! I’ve avoided most reviews, cause I know there’s a twist, but not what it is, and I don’t want it spoiled for me.

  7. This one looks interesting. I haven’t picked it up yet.

  8. This reminds me of Revolutionary Road – which I haven’t read either! Have you? are they similar? Maybe just marriage set in that time period…

  9. I’ve read several reviews of this lately, but yours put me over the edge—I’m definitely adding this to my TBRs. It sounds like it might resemble Revolutionary Road (which I loved) in some its exploration of an intimate relationship constrained by certain cultural standards. I’m fascinated by books like this, and now I just have to know about the big reveals….

  10. Great review! I’ve never read this book but I would love to now that I’ve read your review of it.

  11. I bought the book at FOB but haven’t opened it yet. Nice review though. I’ll come back to it once I’ve read the book to compare notes.

  12. I love stories that defy my expectations. This looks like a great read, I will have to keep a lookout for it. Thanks!

  13. I really liked this, although I don’t know how much I would have had it not been for the lovely writing. I probably would have found it just okay.

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