The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler

The Amateur Marriage by
Mass Market Paperback, 306 pages
The Amateur Marriage
Rating: 9/10


In the heat of World War II beginning, everyone thought that Michael and Pauline were the perfect couple. No one who had witnessed it would ever forget the way that Michael's usually solemn face lit up with joy when her red coat popped out of the crowd and she chased him down for a goodbye before he boarded his train. But as reality sets in, the plodding and practical Michael and the impulsive and fiery Pauline seem utterly mismatched to each other, and their possible mistake in marrying may reverberate over the next two generations.

Reason for Reading

I scored a $2 copy at my local used bookstore after liking The Accidental Tourist.

Why you should read this book

Tyler deftly shows us her intricate, deeply real characters over the 300 pages of The Accidental Marriage. They feel like our own family, and, as in real life, their passions and rages often guide them more than the good things we want for them. A cross word between characters can bubble into something awful in a way that rarely seems to be captured so well in fiction. The story hops over years at a time, but as we settle into each new chapter, it is perfectly clear from Tyler's smooth writing how the characters' personalities led them to what might have otherwise been unexpected places. It's also fun to see the characters modernize (or try to, at least) over the decades. The children eventually move into bigger roles in the story, highlighting the relationship between Michael and Pauline even further. Heart-breaking at points, but a beautiful story of people who could do nothing but try their hardest.

Why you should avoid this book

This isn't the ideal book for someone looking for a straightforward love story. It's also a fairly 'quiet' and understated book, despite some of the bigger dramas that happen in the characters' lives.

Opening Paragraph

Anyone in the neighborhood could tell you how Michael and Pauline first met.

Fabulous quotes

Was it possible to dislike your own wife?
Well, no, of course not. This was just one of those ups-and-downs that every couple experienced. He'd seen the topic referred to on the covers of those magazines that Pauline was always buying: "How to Stop Marital Fights Before They Start" and "Inside: 'Why Do We Argue So Often?'"
But surely most other wives were not so baffling as Pauline. So changeable, so illogical.
'Our daughter may be a little bit rebellious,' her father said, 'a little late getting home some nights, maybe; a little critical of the older generation. But she is not out carousing in bars with a bunch of lowlifes. She isn't some sort of gang moll. She isn't...trash, understand?'
'Yes, sir,' the older one said. But the two men's faces didn't change. They stayed coolly, blankly polite.
Now it was the Antons' turn to trade glances. All around the room they looked at each other - the parents on the couch, George in the armchair, and Karen perched on the ottoman in front of it. They didn't say anything, they didn't even move; but Karen had the feeling they had somehow drawn closer together.

Also by

If Morning Ever Comes; The Tin Can Tree; A Slipping-Down Life; The Clock Winder; Celestial Navigation; Searching for Caleb; Earthly Possessions; Morgan's Passing; Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant; The Accidental Tourist; Breathing Lessons; Saint Maybe; Ladder of Years; A Patchwork Planet; Back When We Were Grownups; Digging to America; Noah's Compass; The Beginner's Goodbye.

Fun Tidbit

In a rare interview, Tyler admits that saves 'the best of [her]self' for novels, and so is unlikely to ever have enough short stories to print as a collection.

Would I read more by ?

Absolutely. I'm not sure I fully appreciated The Accidental Tourist when I was younger, so I might even do a rare re-read. I'd also like the check out the one Tyler considers her best, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, amongst others.

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