Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Book Review: The Amateur Marriage

I have always been a huge fan of Anne Tyler. I remember the moment when I first discovered her, way back in a college lit class. The professor offered a summer reading list, and Dinner at the Homesick Restuarant was one of the choices. I liked the sound of that and made a mental note to read it. A few weeks later I noticed a friend reading that The Accidental Tourist. She asked me, "How do you pronounce this name, Macon--is is 'Ma(k)on' or 'Ma(s)son'?" I almost didn't read the book because of the uncertainty of the name pronunciation. I am strangely affected by words I can't pronounce easily.

Fortunately for me, I read The Accidental Tourist and then proceeded to read all of Tyler's past books and every single one since (except for her newest one, Digging to America. But that's on my TBR list.) The Amateur Marriage was familiar, as all Anne Tyler novels are, because Tyler's novels depict ordinary people living ordinary lives. Tyler's forte is delving into families and the various relationships involved in maintaining and surviving in a family: as an individual, a couple, a parent, a child, etc.

The Amateur Marriage is the story of a doomed marriage. Michael and Pauline slide into marriage almost by mistake, and they never manage to quite get the rhythm of a good marriage. They never quite click, never quite fall madly in love, never give each other exactly what they need. Sounds ordinary enough, maybe even trite, but Tyler is anything but trite. Her language is precise and smooth; her dialog is always perfect. The characters are wonderfully developed because you know people exactly like this.

As I often feel with Tyler novels, I wished for more. While Michael and Pauline are certainly the central characters, I wanted to know more about their children and grandson. I'd love another book or two devoted to these more minor characters. But so far Tyler has resisted taking any of her amazing novels and turning them into a loose series, and, really, I'm glad. She is perfect as she is.


Anonymous said...

I LOVED Digging to America. Definitely one of my favorite reads, and has a ton of discussion points, particularly for Moms. Hope you read it soon!

Literary Feline said...

I have yet to read a book by Anne Tyler but I do have this one and Digging to America in my TBR collection. I've heard such great things about her and your review has me wanting to get to her sooner than later.

Anonymous said...

I read several of Anne Tyler's earlier books years ago but must have overdosed because I suddenly stopped. I returned to Digging to America and really loved it!