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The Amateur Marriageby Anne Tyler
"In this story of two good people who make each other miserable, Tyler eschews her stock of whimsical oddballs and instead brings her famed empathy to bear on strikingly realistic characters....In her deliberate, unadorned, butter-smooth prose, unwrapping a telling moment here and there, Tyler works through sixty years, time enough for rending events to become part of the fabric of life....[A]s always, the people she cares about are those who care profoundly and unshakably, no matter what happens, about others." Christina Schwarz, The Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
Synopses & Reviews
The Amateur Marriage opens on December 7, 1941, as Pauline impulsively leaps from a streetcar, catapulting her into the Baltimore store of Michael Anton's mother, and into Michael's heart. Michael enlists, and on his return they marry, with the all the fervor, heat, and romantic expectations of the times. Yet her impetuousness, imagination, and nervous energy is met with his sense of order, stability, and cautiousness. Cutting a swath of sixty years, Anne Tyler recreates a mismatched marriage, viewed in kaleidoscope fashion by those affected by the marriage. A marriage that Michael finally realizes, despite the many years, has left he and Pauline "as inexperienced as ever — the last couple left in the amateurs' parade."
Anne Tyler is ridiculously good at the subtle domestic drama, whereby the potentially mundane is brought to life by razor-sharp insight, empathy, and dark humor. In her hands, nuanced interplay between men and women is etched with crystal clarity. Pauline's frustration with Michael is painted as such: "his caution, his literal-mindedness, his ponderous style of speech his magical ability to make her seem hysterical." The Amateur Marriage is Tyler at the height of her powers, hypnotizing her readers with the complicated undercurrents of American middle-class life. Georgie Lewis, Powells.com
From the inimitable Anne Tyler, a rich and compelling novel about a mismatched marriage—and its consequences, spanning three generations.
They seemed like the perfect couple—young, good-looking, made for each other. The moment Pauline, a stranger to the Polish Eastern Avenue neighborhood of Baltimore (though she lived only twenty minutes away), walked into his mother’s grocery store, Michael was smitten. And in the heat of World War II fervor, they are propelled into a hasty wedding. But they never should have married.
Pauline, impulsive, impractical, tumbles hit-or-miss through life; Michael, plodding, cautious, judgmental, proceeds deliberately. While other young marrieds, equally ignorant at the start, seemed to grow more seasoned, Pauline and Michael remain amateurs. In time their foolish quarrels take their toll. Even when they find themselves, almost thirty years later, loving, instant parents to a little grandson named Pagan, whom they rescue from Haight-Ashbury, they still cannot bridge their deep-rooted differences. Flighty Pauline clings to the notion that the rifts can always be patched. To the unyielding Michael, they become unbearable.
From the sound of the cash register in the old grocery to the counterculture jargon of the sixties, from the miniskirts to the multilayered apparel of later years, Anne Tyler captures the evocative nuances of everyday life during these decades with such telling precision that every page brings smiles of recognition. Throughout, as each of the competing voices bears witness, we are drawn ever more fully into the complex entanglements of family life in this wise, embracing, and deeply perceptive novel.
From the Hardcover edition.
"She expertly explores the perils of marriage... Wise and observant... She has the uncanny ability to expose the most confusing contradictions of love." Connie Ogle, Miami Herald
"Tyler is much more concerned with the fine art of human survival in changing circumstances. The range and power of this novel should not only please Tyler's immense readership but also awaken us to the collective excellency of her career." Publishers Weekly
"Painfully accurate and painfully funny as ever....So smart, so sensitive, so readable and engaging. Is it churlish to suggest that an author obviously at the peak of her powers should broaden her horizons and push herself a little harder the next time out?" Kirkus Reviews
"In the fervor of WWII, Michael and Pauline rush head-long into marriage, then live in a constant state of turmoil... We watch safely from a distance like a busybody neighbor hiding behind the curtains, judgmental yet fascinated." Kim Askew, Elle magazine
"[The Antons'] sad story, as dark and ironic as Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, is leavened by Tyler's trademark comic details, narrated with characteristic dry and witty understatement. This rewarding work is recommended." Library Journal
"The Amateur Marriage is...Tyler's most ambitious work, ranging over 60 years of American experience....[S]uch writing is beautifully accurate, more often than not with a glinting vein of humor." William H. Pritchard, The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis in 1941 but grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She graduated at nineteen from Duke University and went on to do graduate work in Russian studies at Columbia University. This is Anne Tyler’s sixteenth novel; her eleventh, Breathing Lessons, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. She lives in Baltimore.
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