Review – Matrimony

Matrimony by Joshua Henkin

From the book jacket –

From the moment he was born, Julian Wainwright has lived a life of Waspy privilege.  The son of a Yale-educated investment banker, he grew up in a huge apartment on Sutton Place, high above the East River, and attended a tony Manhattan prep school.  But more than anything, Julian wants to get out – out from his parents’ influence, off to Graymont College in western Massachusetts, where he hopes to become a writer.

When he arrives, in the fall of 1986, Julian meets Carter Heinz, a scholarship student from California with whom he develops a strong but ambivalent friendship.  Carter’s mother, desperate to save money for his college education, used to buy him reversible clothing, figuring she was getting two items for the price of one.  Now, spending time with Julian, Carter seethes with resentment.  He swears he will grow up to be wealthy – wealthier, even, than Julian himself.

Then, one day, flipping through the college facebook, Julian and Carter see a photo of Mia Mendelsohn.  Mia from Montreal, they call her.  Beautiful, Jewish, the daughter of a physics professor at McGill, Mia is – Julian and Carter agree – dreamy, urbane, stylish, refined.

But Julian gets to Mia first, meeting her by chance in the college laundry room.  Soon they begin a love affair that – spurred on by family tragedy – will carry them to graduation and beyond, taking them through several college towns, spanning twenty years.  But when Carter reappears, working for an Internet company in California, he throws everyone’s life into turmoil; Julian’s, Mia’s, how own.

Starting at the height of the Reagan era and ending in the new millenium, Matrimonyis about love and friendship, money and ambition, desire and tensions of faith.  It asks what happens to a marriage when it is confronted by betrayal and the specter of mortality.  What happens when people marry younger than they’d expected to?  Can love survive the passing of time?

My thoughts –

While I can’t say that this is my favorite novel of all time, I did really enjoy and appreciate Matrimony.  The way Henkin drew out the characters and really delved into them was incredible.  I finished the book feeling like I’d just spent time getting to know new friends, that’s how much I enjoyed and understood these characters.  I sort of feel like the book lacked plot.  Obviously, I understand that this was not a plot-driven novel in any way, and at the same time there was a definite plot to the book, but there were times when I honestly just wanted a little more to actually happen.  But I guess the slight lack of happenings make this book more real… for most of us, there aren’t constant events every other day; our lives are a series of relationships, friendships, and other interactions, and rarely do we have big time “plots” in our lives.  So I suppose I’m a little torn about that; while I did want to see more of a story to the book, I appreciate how close to reality it actually was in not having such a huge story to it.

I don’t want anyone to think there’s not a story at all, though.  There definitely is, and it’s a great story, of very interesting people and what seems to be a normal, loving marriage, and what happens when family, career, education, friendship, and marriage all intersect.  It’s really a great book, it unfolds so wonderfully, and like I said, you really, truly get to know and love these characters.  I’d definitely recommend this book, but the problem is that I just know this type of novel is not for everybody.  Personally, I’m glad I read it and I’m happy to recommend it to all of you. 🙂

8.5 stars.

Read Dewey’s review here, Care’s review here, Lisa’s review here, and Julie P.’s review here.

8 thoughts on “Review – Matrimony”

  1. I have wanted to read this one for awhile. I really like your description and it sounds that a winner. More of a character study, huh?

  2. Matrimony comes out in paperback the last week of August. Would you like to do a giveaway of a signed paperback copy then? Let me know. You can email me at Jhenkin at SLC dot edu.

    Joshua Henkin

  3. […] Rating: 4 Balance of Opinion: Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?, Book Club Classics!, The Hidden Side of a Leaf, Bloody Hell, It’s a Book Barrage!, Bookfoolery and Babble, Books on the Brain, The Book Lady’s Blog, Book Addiction […]

  4. […] Win a copy of Matrimony HERE! Filed under: books — Tags: free books — Heather @ 6:07 pm Great news- Joshua Henkin has very generously offered to give away a signed copy of his book, Matrimony, which recently came out in paperback.  I read the book recently and REALLY enjoyed it –  you can read my review here.  […]

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