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.
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
Because Tyler writes with scrupulous accuracy about muddled, unglamorous suburbanites, it is easy to underestimate her as a sort of Pyrex realist. Yes, Tyler intuitively understands the middle class's Norman Rockwell ideal, but she doesn't share it; rather, she has a masterful ability to make it bleed. Her latest novel delineates, in careful strokes, the 30-year marriage of Michael Anton and Pauline Barclay, and its dissolution. In December 1941 in St. Cassians, a mainly Eastern European conclave in Baltimore, 20-year-old Michael meets Pauline and is immediately smitten. They marry after Michael is discharged from the army, but their temperaments don't mix. For Michael, self-control is the greatest of virtues; for Pauline, expression is what makes us human. She is compulsively friendly, a bad hider of emotions, selfish in her generosity ("my homeless man") and generous in her selfishness. At Pauline's urging, the two move to the suburbs, where they raise three children, George, Karen and Lindy. Lindy runs away in 1960 and never comes back-although in 1968, Pauline and Michael retrieve Pagan, Lindy's three-year-old, from her San Francisco landlady while Lindy detoxes in a rehab community that her parents aren't allowed to enter. Michael and Pauline got married at a time when the common wisdom, expressed by Pauline's mother, was that "marriages were like fruit trees.... Those trees with different kinds of branches grafted onto the trunks. After a time, they meld, they grow together, and... if you tried to separate them you would cause a fatal wound." They live into an era in which the accumulated incompatibilities of marriage end, logically, in divorce. For Michael, who leaves Pauline on their 30th anniversary, divorce is redemption. For Pauline, the divorce is, at first, a tragedy; gradually, separation becomes a habit. A lesser novelist would take moral sides, using this story to make a didactic point. 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. (Jan.) Forecast: Expect the usual blockbuster sales-there will be a first printing of 300,000. This is also likely to become one of Tyler's strongest backlist titles. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
December 31, 2003
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler
Anyone in the neighborhood could tell you how Michael and Pauline first met.
It happened on a Monday afternoon early in December of 1941. St. Cassian was its usual poky self that day ' a street of narrow East Baltimore row houses, carefully kept little homes intermingled with shops no bigger than small parlors. The Golka twins, identically kerchiefed, compared cake rouges through the window of Sweda ' s Drugs. Mrs. Pozniak stepped out of the hardware store with a tiny brown paper bag that jingled. Mr. Kostka ' s Model-B Ford puttered past, followed by a stranger ' s sleekly swishing Chrysler Airstream and then by Ernie Moskowicz on the butcher ' s battered delivery bike.
In Anton ' s Grocery ' a dim, cram-packed cubbyhole with an L-shaped wooden counter and shelves that reached the low ceiling ' Michael ' s mother wrapped two tins of peas for Mrs. Brunek. She tied them up tightly and handed them over without a smile, without a ' Come back soon ' or a ' Nice to see you. ' (Mrs. Anton had had a hard life.) One of Mrs. Brunek ' s boys ' Carl Paul Peter they all looked so much alike ' pressed his nose to the glass of the penny-candy display. A floorboard creaked near the cereals, but that was just the bones of the elderly building settling deeper into the ground.
Michael was shelving Woodbury ' s soap bars behind the longer, left-hand section of the counter. He was twenty at the time, a tall young man in ill-fitting clothes, his hair very black and cut too short, his face a shade too thin, with that dark kind of whiskers that always showed no matter how often he shaved. He was stacking the soap in a pyramid, a base of five topped by four, topped by three . . . although his mother had announced, more than once, that she preferred a more compact, less creative arrangement.
Then, tinkle, tinkle! and wham! and what seemed at first glance a torrent of young women exploded through the door. They brought a gust of cold air with them and the smell of auto exhaust. ' Help us! ' Wanda Bryk shrilled. Her best friend, Katie Vilna, had her arm around an unfamiliar girl in a red coat, and another girl pressed a handkerchief to the red-coated girl ' s right temple. ' She ' s been hurt! She needs first aid! ' Wanda cried.