Slowly the story unfolds, bringing characters such as Waspy Julian Wainwright and scholarship student Carter Heinz to life, as they begin their journey as college students. We meet them in the eighties, during the Reagan era, and follow them into the twenty-first century.
College years in Northington, Massachusetts seem typical for the era. Pranks, partying, and finding girlfriends. The two young men, who could seem totally unlike one another, become fast friends.
Meeting Mia Mendelsohn, dubbed “Mia from Montreal” in honor of her Canadian residency, could have been another fluke. They each met her, but right away she and Julian pair up. And Carter has already connected to Pilar.
Julian and Carter both seem destined to write novels, yet their lives seemingly change directions. Carter returns to California and Julian and Mia move to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Julian continues working on his novel, yet finds other ways to earn money.
It is almost as though the work in progress is a metaphor for their lives, and it will be many years before the novel is finished.
What are the pressure points for Julian and Mia that almost do them in? What happens, ultimately, to the Carter and Pilar pairing, and how do these youthful connections fare in the long run? Do the friendships last in spite of the frayed edges?
Fifteen years later at a reunion, we begin to see how the defining moments that highlighted their lives are the most memorable. In Matrimony: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries), we are offered a portrait of what happens when people marry young and how love sometimes survives the passing of time.
I liked how the quiet moments in life are drawn and incorporated into the characters, almost as if they are captured in muted shades. I found Mia’s thoughts about memories of childhood and her mother very poignant:
“She remembered these things, but they came back to her like cumulus clouds, as if she were descending through something she could no longer see.”
Or Julian, describing what he learned about writing from his favorite professor:
“Write what you know about what you don’t know,” Julian said, “or what you don’t know about what you know.”
This story took me back to my younger years and the connections formed then and sustained for years afterwards. I like thinking about these moments that become part of who we are. I identified with the characters, even Julian and Carter, for their very human frailties. I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys reminders of who we are and how we became that way. Four stars.