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Story Of A Marriage

by Andrew Sean Greer
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publishing date: 31/03/2009
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780312428280
  • ISBN: 0312428286


A Today Show Summer Reads Pick

A Washington Post Book of the Year

Andrew Sean Greer is the bestselling author of The Confessions of Max Tivoli, the story collection How It Was for Me, and the novel The Path of Minor Planets. He lives in San Francisco, California.
Longlisted for the International IMPAC Literary Award
A Financial Times Best Book of the Year
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year

"We think we know the ones we love." So Pearlie Cook begins her indirect and devastating exploration of the mystery at the heart of every relationship?how we can ever truly know another person.

It is 1953 and Pearlie, a dutiful young housewife, lives in the Sunset district of San Francisco, caring not only for her older husband in his fragile health but also for her son, who is afflicted with polio. Then, on a Saturday morning, a stranger comes to her doorstep and offers her $100,000 if she will leave her marriage, her family, and her life behind. All the certainties by which Pearlie has lived are thrown into doubt. For six months in 1953, young Pearlie Cook struggles to understand the world around her, most especially her husband, Holland.

Pearlie’s story is a meditation not only on love but also on the effects of war?with one war just over and another one in Korea coming to a close. Set in a climate of fear and repression?political, sexual, and racial?The Story of a Marriage portrays three people trapped by the confines of their era, and the desperate measures they are prepared to take to escape it. Lyrical and surprising, The Story of a Marriage looks back at a period that we tend to misremember as one of innocence and simplicity.

"The Story of a Marriage is just that, the chronicle of one marriage, closely and elegantly examined . . . a plot that deepens as surprises explode unexpectedly and terrifyingly . . . It's thoughtful, complex and exquisitely written."?Carolyn See, The Washington Post

"A timeless story of conflicting loyalties, The Story of a Marriage has roots in the fiction of Poe's era, but, fittingly enough, its plot is firmly anchored in the vividly described America of the early 1950s?a seemingly serene era whose submerged social, racial and political tensions would soon create their own disruptions and upheavals."?Maggie Scarf, The New York Times Book Review

"From the beginning of this inspired, lyrical novel, the reader is pulled along by the attentive voice of Pearlie, a young African-American woman who travels west to San Francisco in search of a better life after growing up in a rural Kentucky town . . . Mr. Greer's considerable gifts as a storyteller ascend to the heights of masters like Marilynne Robinson and William Trevor. In the hands of a lesser writer this narrative might have stumbled into a literary derivation of Annie Proulx's now famous short story 'Brokeback Mountain.' But instead Mr. Greer creates a moving story that is all his own via an intimate view of Pearlie's world, which has spun off its axis . . . Mr. Greer seamlessly choreographs an intricate narrative that speaks authentically to the longings and desires of his characters."?S. Kirk Walsh, The New York Times

"'We think we know the ones we love,' begins Andrew Sean Greer's bewitching third novel, The Story of a Marriage, a book whose linguistic prowess and raw storytelling power is almost disruptive to the reader. It's too good to put down and yet each passage is also too good to leave behind . . . Greer's short novel feels admirably worked over?like a long-simmered sauce. He near-brilliantly juxtaposes the nuances of love, sexual awakening and the sometimes suffocating sacrifices marriage demands against broader cultural observations about political turmoil, the physical and emotional effects of war, sexual repression and racism . . . His book is a perfect mix of what we seek from literature?captivating storytelling; a complex, finely tuned structure; stunning language; and astute observations about both the mundane intricacies of everyday relationships and society as a whole. Indeed, The Story of a Marriage is as much a war story as it is a love story."?Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"The cleverest aspect of The Story of a Marriage is the way Greer uses the little dramas of private individuals to enact and embody the abstract political and social concerns of the country at large. In Greer's novel, the lack of understanding between individuals, and our failure to grasp that very lack of understanding?the idea that, as Pearlie states more than once, ?We think we know the ones we love’?is made to stand for the lack of understanding between different communities within American society. The idea that ?what we love turns out to be a poor translation,’ for instance, is later brought back in a very different and much broader context . . . The Story of a Marriage is the story of an entire country of people who cannot speak to or hear one another. Pearlie's husband, Holland, remains an enigma not only to her but also to the reader. Indeed, he rarely appears in the book, and when he is onstage, he does little. One comes to believe that he is one of those people whose presence is so minimal that one is never certain whether he is even in the room. He is, in a sense, the center of the book, the one whose actions set everything in motion, yet we never witness those actions directly and instead only hear about them, and the center feels like a hollow void. And Pearlie, too, seems somehow absent, as if, despite her role as first-person narrator, her real conversation with herself is taking place on a level to which we have no real access. (Though then again, perhaps it is Pearlie herself who has no access to her real thoughts and feelings.) . . . Greer's focus in this novel is on those members of that generation who stayed on these shores, many of whom in their various ways suffered tremendously, sufferings that, in keeping with the book's overall theme, frequently proved incomprehensible to others. Wives and girlfriends, mothers and fathers, draft dodgers, conscientious objectors (referred to in the slang of the day as 'conchies'), all of these had their own particular stories of misery, heartbreak, isolation and occasionally madness. But these stories were often too painful, too terrible to tell. And even when their bearers managed to find the strength of will to articulate them, what they all too often found was that there was no one who would listen."?Troy Jollimore, San Francisco Chronicle

"You could say that Andrew Sean Greer is back at it again, cleverly telling tales with his elegant sleight-of-hand. His last novel, The Confessions of Max Tivoli, set in early 20th century San Francisco, chronicled the adventures of said Max, who at birth resembles an old man but with each passing year grows younger in appearance, upending life-cycle assumptions and limitations. Greer's new novel, The Story of a Marriage, doesn't turn on a series of fantastic, suspension-of-belief plot points, but the unadorned title belies the startling narrative land mines Greer has seeded within the novel . . . Not quite 200 pages, the novel nonetheless has grand, sweeping ambitions, taking on war, race, sexual orientation, patriotism, the shifting notion of what it is to be an American. Holland's past and Pearlie's future are backdropped by a country still set off-balance by the atmosphere of war?still haunted by World War II, now buffeted by one in Korea. But it is the book's surprise turns that create the biggest temblors?not just in the lives on the page but also within the reader's minds . . . The book's secrets are the true heart of the matter?like the secrets we keep in life in order, we think, to better manage it. They're so important that in the advanced reader's copy, Greer's editor, Frances Coady, included a note that is a 'plea' not to 'reveal its secrets to those readers coming after you.'"?Lynell George, Los Angeles Times

"Greer is a gifted writer bent on showing that, between the upheaval of World War II and the activism of the 1960s, the political and social issues stirred up in those decades didn't disappear. They were just put out of view while the country took a breath. The Story of a Marriage is a neat little package about one couple that was forced to face them."?Ellen Emry Heltzel, The Seattle Times

"The Story of a Marriage is firmly rooted in its period . . . The author also infuses the novel with a deep understanding about the fallibility of memory and perception, themes that make it seem timeless. Like most people, these characters have blind spots, and Greer portrays them with stunning focus."?Sara Eckel, Time Out New York

"The Story of a Marriage asks in its quiet way what happens when an outsider forces us to face the truth of our private lives?lives assumed to be settled and permanent, if largely unexamined . . . This emotionally complex novel resists tidy conclusions through finely nuanced narrative ambiguity and a bewitching lyricism."?Patrick Denman Flanery, The Times Literary Supplement

"The haunting questions in Andrew Sean Greer's exquisite new novel resonate with us all: 'What do you want from life? Could you even say?' . . . Revealing secrets in layers as delicate as onionskin, The Story of a Marriage explores the nature of love and connection and human frailty set against a backdrop of war and repression. Author of the poignant The Confessions of M...

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  • I ran out of empathy half way through
    From Amazon

    I began reading this book and I felt bad for Pearlie. She seemed sweet but gullible. She seemed to long for love but she lived in her own dream world. When a total stranger appears at her door claiming to be a friend of her husband, she invites him into her home. This was the first of many times when I wanted to grab Pearlie by the shoulders and say in a firm but kindly voice, "Think about what you're doing!" But Pearlie seemed to drift through her days, letting herself be led into one bad decision after another. I stopped wanting to shout at her to think about what she was doing and I began just shaking my head slowly from side to side and mentally sighing to myself. As the story wore on, I grew weary of this page after page. When was this girl going to learn? Then I thought, I'm doing the same thing as Pearlie: I'm doing what makes me unhappy. In this case, reading this book. So I stopped reading, went to these reviews to see how the story would end to satisfy my curiosity, and moved on with my life. And, in doing so, found the redeeming ending I'd been looking for all along.

  • Beautiful prose, lovely story
    From Amazon

    I don't think the story is too short or that the suprises are so overly suprising that they are unbelievable as some others have said. I just thought it was a beautiful story told in a haunting way which stays with you long after the story is done. I really think you will enjoy it.

  • Haunting and On Target
    From Amazon

    The Story of a Marriage is a deeply felt, deeply considered look at a slice of convincing real life: a love triangle between two men and one woman in which the men have been disposed, so to speak, to each other. It is a tale of nuances, of emotion and complication with various twists that can only imitate real not imaginary life. Greer has thought about the extent that people, even people in intimate relationships, can really know each other, and what they take for granted. This is not a plot driven novel: there are few "events" per se. Nor is it an exercise in inevitability. What it is, completely, is a meditation on the human condition and the fidelity of the heart and soul as distinguished from corporeal fidelity, which is beyond most men. One of the most interesting aspects of the novel is Greer's exploration of Pearlie's apparent passivity in the face of losing her husband to his former lover. The Story of a Marriage is a spare and absorbing novel.

  • Apt Title
    From Amazon

    Well, this was an interesting novel. Short, but rather powerful in its own way. Well-written with strong characters. I enjoyed it, but just didn't love it. Maybe because I loved _The Confessions of Max Tivoli_ so much more? I really don't have any specific complaints, other than it was just missing that extra something to make it a wonderful book.

  • San Francisco Dreaming
    From Amazon

    An African American woman wrestles with her husband's mysterious past when a white man shows up on her doorstep and reveals that he was once the man's lover. Set in 1950's San Francisco, Greer's novel is a kind of Sophie's Choice filtered through the lens of Douglas Sirk. Greer keeps the melodrama at bay in an evocative portrait of postwar life, largely on the strength of the wife's first-person narrative voice. What emerges through the eyes of its wary, observant protagonist is an original snapshot of black life chafing against an America on the verge of its next revolution.

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