Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Review and Author Chat: Matrimony

Thanks to www.readinggroupguides.com our book club won an author chat with Joshua Henkin, author of Matrimony.

About the book...It's the fall of 1986, and Julian Wainwright, an aspiring writer, arrives at Graymont College in New England. Here he meets Carter Heinz, with whom he develops a strong but ambivalent friendships, and beautiful Mia Mendelsohn, with whom he falls in love. Spurred on by a family tragedy, Julian and Mia's love affair will carry them to graduation and beyond, taking them through several college towns over the next fifteen years. Matrimony is about what it's like to fall in love when you're young and to try to stay in love as you reach middle age.

This book started a little slow for me, but once the relationships were developed, I became interested and enjoyed experiencing them. The first third of the book relates to their college life and I was frequently taken back to my college days living in the dorms. No matter your college or your major, the experiences with friends are still the same. I liked this description: They were sitting in clusters, and the way they held themselves, the ease of conversation, reminded Julian of college. It made him nostalgic for a time when everyone was just dropping by, the cheeseburger and onion rings eaten on dorm room floors, the hastily organized surprise parties, the years when time unfurled illusorily before them, when there was nothing to do but celebrate one another. Now in my dorm room it was more likely to be pepperoni pizza, but there were drop ins just the same.

We had a great conversation with Josh and he was quite personable and easy to chat with. There were lots of laughs and he even answered our "tentative and hard" questions. We couldn't wait to ask him about Mia's Dr visit where Mia folds her clothes tucking the underwear underneath her clothes. How did he know women do that? We had a good laugh over that.

Since we live in Iowa and a section of the book is when Julian is living in Iowa City and attending the Writer's Workshop, it was an interesting part of the book for us. Two of our book club members have attended the Writer's Workshop and felt his description of that was right on, but we could also tell he had never been to Iowa City. We encouraged him to come to Iowa for a visit sometime! Not everyone in Iowa is so harsh!

Even though the characters were in college and into adulthood, I liked how the author explored the relationships with each of their parents. How our parents raised us and continue to be a part of our lives still influence our growing up. I enjoyed this part of the story.

One member was disappointed hearing less about Carter as the story moved along. We realized that the story was more about Julian and Mia and how once you move on in life and marriage, friendships can take a back burner. When Carter does resurface, I think the author did a great job with the feelings Julian was having during that time.

There were several twists in the story, but like REAL LIFE, the book kind of covered the monotony of everyday married life. Then when you realize after 20 years, you are still married and none of those WOW things really happened and you still are going about your daily life as a married couple, is that ok? For those of us who have been married 10-15+ years, YES! That is real life. There isn't always going to be passion and romance. There will be highs and lows, but the majority of our days, are full of plain old every day occurrences. That is life and I am happy to be in it!

Both before and after our phone chat with Josh, our book club had an excellent discussion about the book, without using the discussion questions. So, since the book was more about characters than about a major plot, it still gave the reader something to think about. Numerous themes were addressed in the novel: marriage, friendship, divorce, trust, forgiveness, and grief and there were all dealt with in a realistic and heartfelt manner. You can tell Josh gave a lot of thought to how his characters would handle certain situations. I enjoyed the book and then even enjoyed it a little more after talking with my book club and Josh last night. I give this book 3 1/2 stars!

We were very appreciative of Josh taking the time to chat with us. We truly enjoyed it. We even got a "sneak peek" at the novel he is currently working on. We are all very intrigued and anxious to read it. To learn more about Joshua Henkin and have him speak with your book group, visit his website at www.joshuahenkin.com

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