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Amateur Marriage [Hardcover]

Anne Tyler
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 13 2004
Michael and Pauline seemed like the perfect couple-young, good-looking, made for each other. The moment she walked into his mother's grocery store in the Polish neighbourhood of Baltimore, he was smitten. And in the heat of World War II fervor, they were hastily wed. But they never should have married.

Pauline, impulsive and impractical, tumbles hit-or-miss through life; Michael, plodding, cautious, and judgmental, proceeds deliberately. In time their foolish quarrels take their toll. A 17-year-old daughter disappears, and some years later this fractious pair is forced to rescue her little boy, named Pagan, from drug-infested San Francisco, to take him home and raise him.

From the sound of the cash register in the old grocery to the counterculture jargon of the sixties, from the miniskirts to the multilayered apparel of later years, Anne Tyler captures the evocative nuances of everyday life during these decades with such telling precision that every page brings smiles of recognition. Throughout, as each of the competing voices bears witness, we are drawn ever more deeply into the complex entanglements of family life in this marvelous, multifaceted novel-one of Anne Tyler's finest.


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From Amazon

Anne Tyler's The Amateur Marriage is not so much a novel as a really long argument. Michael is a good boy from a Polish neighborhood in Baltimore; Pauline is a harum-scarum, bright-cheeked girl who blows into Michael's family's grocery store at the outset of World War II. She appears with a bloodied brow, supported by a gaggle of girlfriends. Michael patches her up, and neither of them are ever the same. Well, not the same as they were before, but pretty much the same as everyone else. After the war, they live over the shop with Michael's mother till they've saved enough to move to the suburbs. There they remain with their three children, until the onset of the sixties, when their eldest daughter runs away to San Francisco. Their marriage survives for a while, finally crumbling in the seventies. If this all sounds a tad generic, Tyler's case isn't helped by the characteristics she's given the two spouses. Him: repressed, censorious, quiet. Her: voluble, emotional, romantic. Mars, meet Venus. What marks this couple, though, and what makes them come alive, is their bitter, unproductive, tooth-and-nail fighting. Tyler is exploring the way that ordinary-seeming, prosperous people can survive in emotional poverty for years on end. She gets just right the tricks Michael and Pauline play on themselves in order to stay together: "How many times," Pauline asks herself, "when she was weary of dealing with Michael, had she forced herself to recall the way he'd looked that first day? The slant of his fine cheekbones, the firming of his lips as he pressed the adhesive tape in place on her forehead." Only in antogonism do Michael and Pauline find a way to express themselves. --Claire Dederer

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why not five stars? Oct. 27 2004
Format:Hardcover
If you're wondering why I didn't give this book five stars, it's simple: I don't give anyone five stars. Four is my highest rating. Not since McCrae's "The Bark of the Dogwood" have I read such an enthralling and riveting book. Tyler's "The Amateur Mariiage" will go down on my list of books to recommend to friends. This deeply probling look at a marriage is just the thing for today's political, emotional, and materialistic climate. It is a marriage of opposites. Both partners are deeply disappointed in things and they have no idea of how they're going to rectify the situation. There are great moments of depressing scenes and at one point I was totally overwhelmed by the sadness I felt, but in the end it was worth it. I would also recommend the completely different book, "The Bark of the Dogwood," for anyone interested in a look at a very dysfunctional southern family during the civil rights era. Very funny and moving.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amateur to Non-Expert Jan. 2 2008
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In this novel by Anne Tyler two attractive young people rush into marriage at the beginning of World War II. Over the years they experience the same things as their friends but can't seem to mend differences unlike other couples. When they finally move to an upscale neighborhood only Pauline (the wife) is happy; Michael misses his friends and the area where he grew up. Too soon they find themselves responsible for a grandchild but instead of this drawing them closer it broadens the gap between them. A return trip to the old neighborhood some thirty years later finally convinces Michael that you can't go home to the same things you once knew.

In this book author Anne Tyler rounds out her characters with such depth that this reader felt on an intimate basis with them. While the story touches on everyday aspects that everyone will recognize, the characters are sure to evoke a sense of rightness with the way they are brought to life.

A pleasure to read. Recommended: all of Anne Tyler's other works.
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5.0 out of 5 stars You Will Love It Feb. 23 2005
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I am a big fan of this book. So if you are looking for a negative review, you can stop reading now. "The Amateur Marriage" is artistic and creative, one of the best books I have read in recent years. So if you enjoy well written, easily absorbed fiction like "The Five People You Meet in Heaven," "About a Boy," "Wicked," "The Curious Incident of Dog in Night-Time," "The Time Traveler's Wife," and "My Fractured Life," then you will love this book.
At the beginning of World War II, Michael is a good boy in a Polish neighborhood working at his family's grocery store. One day in comes a banged and bruised Pauline. He jumps into hero mode and patches her up, saves the day, becomes her husband and so begins the Hell of a marriage neither one has any business being in. But like so things, this little Amateur Marriage survives...for a while. Like The War of the Roses, what makes the couple work is the love-hate, tug of war. They live off bitterness.
But don't get the references to bitterness deter you. It is an excellent book and one that uses the bitterness as a source of entertainment. It is a fine book that I truly can't say enough about. Probably more in common with "My Fractured Life" and "About a Boy" then "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" and "The Time Traveler's Wife" in terms of tone, but in terms of enjoyment and writing quality it is on par with all of them. This is just a great book. I loved it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing amateur about it July 24 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
A riveting read with excellently drawn characters and movement, this book had me from page one. I must say that I found it to be one of the most disturbing books I've ever read, simply because it so expertly captured a "real" marriage. The fighting and "emotional poverty" as one review put it, is staggering. It certainly makes you think, about your own marriage that is. If you thought "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe" was bad, wait till you see these people. I also read another shocking read lately and must recommend it here. THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD--a really good book, but VERY disturbing. Also funny in places. Whatever you do though, check out THE AMATEUR MARRIAGE first--it just may save yours.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A definate read April 11 2004
By Lu
Format:Hardcover
I just finished this book and was completly saddened when it was finished. It is an excellent book about life and marriage that brings the readers in to really think they are a part of the Anton family. Anne Tyler really enthrawls you into the novel.
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