Book Review: Matrimony

First, a thank you to acne treatment for sponsoring this post.

So, I finally finished Matrimony by Joshua Henkin last night. I enjoyed this book without enjoying it, if that makes any sense at all. The author’s style is not my favorite, and I read it because I was supposed to participate in a message board discussion of it. I never did participate in the discussion, because I had trouble registering for the boards, but duty compelled me to finish the book. And in the weighing, I am glad I did.

The book follows the three main characters over almost 20 years of their lives. It’s fleshed out by their memories of childhood and their encounters with other people, so there’s plenty going on. Nothing stellar happens to any of them, they are just normal folks living normal lives, making normal mistakes, facing normal losses and happinesses. In truth, I did not identify with any of them. It’s just the story of their lives, and their lives are both like mine and different: mostly boring with occasional roller coaster moments.

It’s a thinnish book, really: just under 300 pages. I could have read it in a couple of days had I actually been able to sit down with it. I think I am glad I couldn’t do that though, because the book deserves more. It deals with weighty matters that truly deserve some time and thought. How can I say that, when I’ve said I read it out of duty and even used “boring” to describe it? Well, I just can. Perhaps because there are more similarities than I was willing to admit? Perhaps because in a world stuffed with books in which the characters are larger than life and well beyond the reach of mere mortals, a book that is essentially real is a refreshing change?

There is inherent value in a book that causes us to consider life and birth, death and dying, separation and coming together, anger and love and loss and moving on. In the end, that is the point I took from the book: life goes on, it continues in it’s familiar everydayness and in that very sameness is comfort and joy. The last sentence of the book reads “… with the lights still out, everything dark, the house blanketed in shadows, he follows the sound [of his wife speaking to his infant son], his dog dutifully trailing him, and heads upstairs to see what’s going on.” Life is just sameness punctuated by mere moments of exhilaration, and that is okay.