Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"The Amateur Marriage" by Anne Tyler

From Singles 2009

She also said that when she first heard they’d found Joe’s body, she felt a bolt of something she would almost have to call anger. They made it sound as if he’d just been thoughtlessly mislaid, she said. Like somebody’s cast-off toy. When she herself had been so careful, all these years, to keep him safe and healthy.

In "The Amateur Marriage" we watch the courtship, marriage, and divorce of Michael and Pauline Anton. Michael is very controlled in his emotions and his reactions. Pauline is impetuous and talkative and reactive. They are not a match made in heaven. They are, rather, a match made in Baltimore - in a little neighborhood grocery on the afternoon of a big local sign up for service march at the beginning of WWII. Michael had no plan for enlisting until he was swept away by this exciting new girl in her red coat. He was and he did.

His time in the army was relatively brief being shot in the hip by his bunk mate during training (sorry, there I go giving away the plot! You weren't planning on reading this anyway.) His time with Pauline much longer though ultimately almost as painful.

I've enjoyed Anne Tyler in the past. Odd, quirky, everyday people. Books where my father would say "not much happens." (He never could figure why I liked those kinds of stories.) In the case of "The Amateur Marriage", however, I didn't find the characters to be pleasant - let alone charming. Yes, I understand that they loved each other on some level and were trying their best - that they were hopelessly mismatched - that life is messy and difficult and disappointing. I just didn't enjoy this experience. I read recently that it was a sign of immaturity to think that the characters must be likable.

Alas. I get older but no more mature.

I did enjoy reading Ms. Tyler's words, however. The quote at the beginning from Joe's mother, for example. Very nice.

And, Joe from the quote? He was a neighborhood boy killed in WWII. He didn't have much of a story here...which is just as well. I probably wouldn't have liked him much.

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