Although acquaintances like to think of them as a perfect couple, Pauline and Michael are constantly bickering, sulking and fighting at home. And by cutting back and forth among the viewpoints of different characters, Ms. Tyler is able to provide a kaleidoscopic view of their marriage, and the ripple effect that their contentious relationship has on their children...an ode to the complexities of familial love, the centripetal and centrifugal forces that keep families together and send their members flying apart, the supremely ordinary pleasures and frustrations of middle-class American life.
Michiko Kakutani - New York Times
In new novel The Amateur Marriage, Anne Tyler once again displays the qualities of wisdom, insightful writing and compassion that have made the Baltimore resident the most-admired serious yet popular writer working today. One is never embarrassed to be seen reading a Tyler novel.
Deidre Donahue - USA Today
This novel of marital unhappiness focuses on a couple whose fraught relationship spans sixty years. In the early days of the Second World War, Michael and Pauline find themselves drawn together despite misgivings and bitter fights. The resulting marriage is a thirty-year clash between her impulsiveness and self-absorption and his taciturnity and barely suppressed rage. Tyler examines their acrimonious bond, which persists even after their eventual divorce, with a keen eye for the minor differences that suddenly widen into chasms. In order to illuminate every facet of the couple’s interactions and personalities, the story is told from several points of view: those of Michael and Pauline and two of their three children. Although Tyler’s prose occasionally slips into banality, she never falters in creating vivid characters whose weaknesses are both credible and compelling.
The New Yorker
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.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, Tyler makes a strong return with this memorable exploration of personal identity within middle-class family life. Set in the author's favorite locale of Baltimore and its environs, the novel centers on the Antons, a sympathetic but mismatched couple who endure years of unhappy wedlock. The two appear well suited when they meet and fall in love at the beginning of World War II. Outgoing, enthusiastic Pauline, eager to embrace her husband's Polish American traditions, seems the perfect complement to reserved and practical Michael. Raising three children while building the family grocery business initially brings mutual satisfactions; however, neither their increasing prosperity nor a comfortable suburban home can lessen growing tensions, which become unbearable when the couple must face the consequences of a rebellious daughter's disappearance. Unlike the Ryans of Tyler's Breathing Lessons, the Antons have not forged marital bonds strong enough to endure. Their sad story, as dark and ironic as Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, is leavened by Tyler's trademark comic details, narrated with characteristic dry and witty understatement. This rewarding work is recommended for most public libraries. —Starr E. Smith, Fairfax Cty. P.L., Falls Church, VA.
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