Saturday, September 06, 2008

Review: Matrimony by Joshua Henkin & a Giveaway

“I like the last sentence,” Rufus said. He read it aloud. “’I lay there could and lifeless in Sean’s arms; rigor mortis had started to set in.’”

“What do you like about it?” Professor Cheterfield asked.

“The semicolon.” [pg 15]

Matrimony by Joshua Henkin
Pantheon, 2007
Fiction; 291 pgs

From the Publisher:
Matrimony introduces us to Julian Wainwright and Mia Mendelsohn, two intensely likeable yet wonderfully flawed characters, who meet their freshman year at Graymont College, a liberal arts school in western Massachusetts. Julian, an aspiring writer, has arrived at college from New York to study with his literary hero. Mia has come from Montreal searching for something new and unknown. When they meet, folding laundry, they fall deeply and happily into first love.

But real life soon intrudes, and a family crisis arises at the end of their senior year that will cement their relationship more seriously and quickly than they could have imagined. Together they make their way through the next fifteen years — through career changes, family conflicts and losses, betrayals and successes. From the university towns of Ann Arbor, Berkeley, and Iowa City, to the brownstones of Greenwich Village, the novel moves back and forth between Julian and Mia’s perspectives as Henkin explores the choices and sacrifices we make at different stages in our lives, our changes in ambition and desire, and how we come to lead the lives we live.

To say I was thrilled when I learned I won a signed copy of this book in a giveaway hosted by Dewey at The Hidden Side of the Leaf back in January is an understatement. I had read several reviews of Matrimony by then, some more in favor of the book than others, but ultimately, they all had me curious and wanting to give the book a try.

I began reading Joshua Henkin’s novel, Matrimony, one morning and was finished with it that night. I soaked in the author’s gentle prose and dry wit. I was swept easily into the lives of the characters and suffered alongside them. This was one of those books that mirrored my own life in small ways—meeting my husband my freshman year of college, my husband being an aspired writer, him following my lead in where we settled down, a mother with breast cancer, friendships lost and found, and sibling and parent/child turmoil. These were all things I could relate to on some level and it made the book all the more real to me.

I was most drawn to Mia who seemed the most complex of the novel’s characters. Perhaps, though, my attraction to her was because it was her I could most relate to. Having just lost a friend to breast cancer earlier in the year and with my mother’s own scare years ago, I could especially understand what Mia had gone through—the fear, the agony, and the guilt. Because of recent events in my life, this aspect of the book spoke the loudest to me, but it was just a part of a bigger story—one about love, commitment, friendship and marriage. It is also about forgiveness and acceptance. This is a book about life.

Joshua Henkin does a good job of capturing the nuances of relationships, including how difficult they can be. Mia and Julian were the focal point of the novel, but their story was not the only one being told. There was a subtleness in the way the author weaved in the stories about Mia and Julian’s parents and their own marriages, each fitting in with the book’s overall themes. And the novel was not just about marital relationships, but also touched upon parent and child relationships as well as that between siblings and friends.

This is very much a book about the characters. The events in their lives, their choices and actions propelled the story forward in a natural and realistic way. The characters mature over time and their experiences shape who they become, just as our own lives are shaped by the lives we lead, the decisions we make and the resulting consequences.

Matrimony is a beautifully written novel, one that inspires thought and emotion. Now to go find the author’s first book, Swimming Across the Hudson.

Rating: * (Very Good)

You can learn more about the author and his work on his website; and a reading group guide is available online as well. Joshua Henkin has also made guest appearances on the following blogs: Planet Books, Books on the Brain and The Elegant Variation.

Author Joshua Henkin has been generous enough to offer an autographed copy of the newly released paperback version of Matrimony, a New York Times Notable Fiction Book. Isn't the cover snazzy?

If you would like a chance to win, please leave a comment here. It is open to anyone in the world as long as you have a valid mailing address. Don't forget to include your contact information in your comment if you do not have the information readily accessible on your blog.

As an added bonus, if you leave a comment on the author's guest post from yesterday, I will add in a second (2nd) entry for you! Mentioning the giveaway on your blog will earn you one (1) more entry (please provide a link in the comments if you do post about the giveaway on your blog).

The deadline to enter the giveaway is Saturday, September 13th at 11:59 AM (PDT).

Read what others had to say about this book:
The Literate Housewife
The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness
She is Too Fond of Books
Age 30 - A Year of Books
Books and Cooks
In Spring It Is Dawn
Reading Room
Bookfoolery and Babble
A Reader's Journal
B&B Ex Libris
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?
Shelf Life
The Boston Bibliophile
Trish's Reading Nook
Fresh Ink Books


  1. Hi, I got a giggle from reading your About Me paragraph. My 2 cats enjoyed it too.
    Nice blog title also.
    I just signed up as a LT Reviewer and will get one book from them!
    I also get books to review from 2 publishers, and my own book on Christmas is now available.

  2. Congratulations on your nomination for the BBAW!!! :)

  3. I also met my husband in my freshman year of college! I'm glad you enjoyed the book! I would love to be entered for the giveaway :)

  4. I've heard great things about this book, and liked your review. Thanks for entering me in the giveaway!

  5. Please count me in. I've read so many positive reviews for this book.

  6. I would love to be included in the giveaway

  7. Yes - throw my name in the hat and congrats on your nom!

  8. i keep seeing this book all over the place and would really like to read it! : )

    lc_intocable at yahoo dot com

  9. Congrats on your nomination. I would love to be added to the hat.

    angelleslament @ gmail. com

  10. Please enter me in this one!

  11. This is a great review, Wendy and the story is appealing to me.

    I'm glad you're hosting the giveaway and I'd love to participate. Please count me in. :D

  12. Yes, I would also love to be entered & I posted it on my blog-thanks:)

  13. Thanks for the great review, Wendy! I've read a lot of good reviews on this book so I can't wait to read it. Please count me in for the draw! :)

  14. I would love to be included in the drawing! Thanks! Fabulous photos of Hawaii!! Thanks for sharing!

  15. Please enter me for the Matrimony giveaway. I've heard only good things about this book. Thanks for the chance to win it!

  16. OOPS! Forgot to leave my email!
    geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

  17. This is a book about life.

    I completely agree. Great review. :)

  18. I'm glad you enjoyed this one. Have you read his first book?

  19. Terra - Thank you! I had a little help from my husband in composing the About Me bit. :-) Welcome to the Early Reviewer program on LT! It's a lot of fun. Congratulations on the publishing of your own book! You must be so excited!

    Joy - Thank you so much! I don't feel worthy of the commenter nomination at the moment what with me going on vacation right before the big week. :-)

    Laura - Another college romance! I feel so lucky to have found my husband when I did. :-)

    Alyce - Thank you! I hope you will enjoy the book as much as I did.

    C.B. James - It really is a good book, and I hope you get the chance to read it.

    Heidi - Thanks for entering!

    Lenore - Thank you! I still can't believe I was nominated for anything. LOL It feels great though. :-)

    Samantha - Thank you for entering!

    Robin - It is a book that is making the rounds, isn't it? :-)

    Ruby - Thank you!

    Bermudaonion - Love the nickname! Thank you for entering.

    Alice - Thank you! It really is a great book. I love the author's writing style.

    Julie - Thanks so much, Julie!

    Melody - Thank you!

    Lisa - I'm glad you enjoyed the Hawaii photos. It was such a fun trip. I hope we can go back one day--maybe visit some of the other islands. :-)

    Gwendolyn - Thanks for entering!

    Nat - Thank you!

    Trish - I haven't read his first one yet, but I'd like to.


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