When I first started seeing reviews of Matrimony last fall, I was intrigued but ambivalent. My personal history has made me sometimes reluctant to tackle novels about troubled marriages, and this one looked like it might hit just a bit too close to home. Julian and Mia married before they were out of college (check), moved away for one spouse to attend grad school while the other worked (check), and separated as a result of one partner's infidelity (check) - these were some of my own plot points, and I feared the story might dig too far under my skin. But when the author contacted me to offer a review copy, I didn't want to wimp out, so I accepted the book.
I didn't have much too fear from Matrimony, as it turned out. I've got some distance from that part of my own story now, and despite some similar plot points, Julian and Mia's story is theirs, not mine.
We're not necessarily the same people at thirty-five that we are at eighteen, and for couples who meet and marry young, this can be an unanticipated challenge. Some work their way through it, and some find themselves too far apart to bridge the gap. I think that Henkin's novel portrayed the growth and change of both the individuals, and the relationship, quite well.
It struck me that some of the dramatic personal events that the characters went through were actually written without a lot of "drama," and I actually think it works. I would describe the writing itself as "reserved;" I think it's true to the WASP reserve of a character like Julian, which tends to be associated with not much discussion of feelings, and it doesn't manipulate the reader's feelings either.
But despite my earlier mention of plot points, this is a character-driven novel, and it's mostly balanced between Julian and Mia, with very smooth transitions in perspective. However, having said that, I found Mia to be the more interesting, better-developed character, although I found all of the characters to be real and sympathetic. I can't say I'm anxious for a sequel, but I would be interested in re-visiting these characters and their lives at some point in the future.
The book is a fairly quick read and an engaging story, and one that I think will stick with me for awhile. I appreciate Joshua Henkin's offering me the opportunity to read and review it.