A short story rejection I got once informed me that while the characters were engaging and the writing good, the story simply lacked tension. In other words, nothing happened aside from two people meeting, liking what they saw and falling in love. That, I was told, is not enough to compel a reader to read.
I could make the same argument about Matrimony. Nothing really happens aside from life. Boy meets girl in college. They fall in love and live the insular life of all college students until they are ejected into the truly adult world which sweeps them along, allowing them as much control as they are willing to accept and as is often the case, they are dragged through their own inertia by the twists and turns more than they grab hold and move themselves.
Still despite the lack of drama – which is a relative thing by the way – the story captures, which is almost always the case when an author has a gift for creating life from words. The people are real, The places are familiar. The life events are ours, after a fashion. Love. Friendship. Ambitions. Endurance. Birth. Death. Fears. And the Scarlett O’Hara assumption that tomorrow really is another day.
Julian is a writer. Mia is his wife. We follow them from their first week together as college freshmen, who are so captivated by each other they spend that week nearly always awake, in each other’s company and mostly naked, through the ups and downs of fifteen years of marriage.
I liked it though I thought it started slow, and there are sticking points where the author spends too much time painting the scenery. Aside from these points, and they are minor ones because Henkin is that good a writer, the story feels like a peek inside a life that could be anyone’s. We all feel and experience as Julian and Mia do at some point or another. Their experiences are universal.
The writing is quiet but filling. If you haven’t read this yet, you should consider doing so.
2 thoughts on “A Review of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin”
Ironically, over the weekend I received the signed copy of Matrimony that I won through THIS VERY SITE from the author! So thank you, again, for that beautiful gift.
I once tried to write a children’s book with an ex-girlfriend and we were told that the characters—all of them cats—were too didactic. I still have no idea what that means.
Another one to put on my To Read list. Which is getting longer and longer.