Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer (a review)

The Story of a Marriage: A Novel
4.5 out of 5: The Story of a Marriage examines the marriage of Pearlie and Holland Cook during a brief period of time in 1953. In many ways, the Cook’s marriage is superficially ordinary, but, like most marriages, it’s internally complicated and weighty: “like those giant heavenly bodies invisible to the human eye, it can only be charted by its gravity, its pull on everything around it.”

This quiet novel is full of self-awareness. The story is remarkably controlled, each detail playing a critical role. In precise and well-crafted prose, Greer reveals the flaws in our assumptions. Just when you think you’ve got the story figured out, Greer shows just how wrong you’ve been all along. The book begins with an appropriate warning:

We think we know the ones we love. Our husbands, our wives. We know them—we are them, sometimes …. But what we love turns out to be a poor translation, a translation we ourselves have made, from a language we barely know. We try to get past it to the original, but we never can.
The Story of a Marriage is about the things we do to construct our view of another person. Ultimately, the person we think we know is nothing more than our own mind’s reconciliation of the mysteries that make up another being:

[A] lover exists only in fragments, a dozen or so if the romance is new, a thousand if we’ve married him, and out of those fragments our heart constructs an entire person. What we each create, since whatever is missing is filled in by our imagination, is the person we wish him to be.

The Story of a Marriage is a masterpiece of the nuances of marriage. It’s poignant and beautiful and well worth reading.


bermudaonion said...

This book sounds fascinating.

Zibilee said...

I have read other rave reviews of this book and think that it I will creep it up on my wish list. I am really glad you liked it, and hope I do as well.

Lit and Life said...

I did a guest review of this at:

I really liked Greer's prose and am glad to hear he's hard at work on his next book.