Matrimony by Joshua Henkin

Matrimony: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries)Title/Author: Matrimony by Joshua Henkin
Publisher/Year: Pantheon 2007
How I Got This Book: The author contacted me, as I’m the moderator of the College Students group on Goodreads, to see if I’d like to read the book in exchange for an honest review.
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.


The author has graciously provided me with a copy to give away here on the blog. You do not have to be a follower to enter this–though it would make me very happy.


To enter:


Leave a comment with your name and a way to contact you if you win and an answer to one of the following that deals with two important aspects (that were of interest to me!) of the book:


1. Share a crazy or fun college experience/memory with me!
OR
 2. Tell me about a person in your life that is like a Mr. Kang or a Mr. Chesterfield that I mentioned above– a person that was meaningful in your life but was only there for a little bit.


This giveaway ends  10/2!

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 28 year old married lady who is in denial that she's actually that old. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating gelato, listening to music with oversized headphones and teaching her niece how to be as awesome as she is.

Comments

  1. For me, I had one teacher in HS. AP Social Studies, a class I didn't particularly love when I was in the class, but once I left HS and headed to college I realized what a great teacher he really was. I only had him for one year, but I ended up being a History major and I hope to be 1/2 as good a teacher as he is!

    areadersramblings(at)gmail(dot)com

  2. Kate–I had a teacher or two like that! I thought they were horrible and then I realized just how much I ended up learning from them! Thanks for sharing!

  3. This book sounds interesting! I have so many random experiences from college but I think my favorite is going to an old run down bridge on a river with a bunch of friends. The girls would always jump off the lower part while some of the boys would climb up to the very top and jump off from there. One day I decided that I was going to jump from the top.. even though I was scared out of my mind, a few of my guy friends climbed up with me and we all jumped together.

    Heather – recklesslyreading@gmail.com

    Thanks for hosting this giveaway!

  4. Heather– That sounds like so much fun!! I love being a crazy college kid. I miss it. I graduated 2 years ago and I was so anxious to get out. Now I'm wishing I could be there again!

    I'll never forget one time it was monsooning out and my friend and I decided to grab cafeteria trays and we slid down this hill. There was pretty much a lake at the bottom of it. It was so cold and so muddy. We were nasty. Then, after about 15 minutes of it being the two of us, all these guys came over and were like, "WOW! Girls sliding down a mudhill!! Awesome!". We promptly left. lol

  5. I really love books like this; the quiet sort of stories are my favorite ones! I've had a few teachers I really loved and still do, but one who will always mean a heck of a lot to me was my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Robertson. We had to go on a field trip to a whaling museum and then write a narrative about it after. I'd never really been interested in writing seriously before, but she wrote on my narrative that she loved it and that my writing really had a "voice." It was that comment that made me start writing, and I've continued to do that for the past ten or so years. I don't think she remembered me when I came back a few years later, but I will always credit her as the person who got me to start writing.

    My email is spyrogal@optonline.net :)

  6. Someone who was meaningful in my life but only there for a short while was my english teacher freshman year of high school. She was the first person to really show me all of the horrible problems with my writing and to make me face them. I worked harder in that class than any other just to end up with Bs and Cs, but I learned more as a student and writer than I ever have before.

    email: tencentnotes@gmail.com

  7. I went to college in NYC, and one day toward the end of the spring semester, we all went into a bar that had basement seating and sat downstairs drinking most of the afternoon away to celebrate the end of finals. When we came out, it was pitch-dark and POURING down rain, and in our topsy-turvy-tipsy states, we all took of our shoes and ran through the fountain in Washington Square Park.

    I miss college.

    ofabookworm AT gmail DOT com

  8. Anonymous says:

    I'd joined a new high school in my second-last year of schooling and had the opportunity of being taught English by a man who would fit into the character of Mr. Chesterfield. Although I didn't realise it at the time, the impact he had on my life was lasting. He was a quirky character and would often perform scenes from Macbeth and Hamlet when reading the scenes out to us at the front of the class. He was dramatic, somewhat eccentric and utterly lovable and would often address us beginning his sentences with "My girls…". He was a grandfatherly figure who brightened our days and made each of us feel special and I will always remember him for that. He was a teacher, mentor and friend. He always had sound advice and I often find myself referring to him in conversations and sometimes even quoting him. I regret that I had not changed schools sooner as the two years spent in his English class were the best two years of my life.

    E-mail: sarah.setar@gmail.com

  9. rdstanle@unca.edu

    I decided to do both because I have something to write for both!

    1. Got extremely drunk one night with friends!!! A friend's friend came to visit her in college and brought beer and captain morgan. OMG it was awesome! But yeah, I got pretty tipsy and then we went to Wafflehouse. It was rather awesome :D.

    2. Christa, a friend who was at school with me last year but is now in Italy. I miss her and she is extremely important to me :D. She is extremely kind and giving and helped me a lot through my first year of college. I can't wait to have a chance to see her more xD.

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