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The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer

The Story of a Marriage

by Andrew Sean Greer

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6195715,832 (3.75)47
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Pearlie Cook is quietly married to Holland. They live contentedly in the Sunset district of San Francisco with their son, in a house next to the Pacific Ocean. Holland is breath-stoppingly handsome, and Pearlie never quite understands why he married her, despite their having been closest childhood friends. One day Buzz Drumer, a white man and WWII “buddy” of Holland’s shows up at her door and insinuates himself into their family.

Pearlie, who has long believed that Holland has a heart condition from his shocking war experiences, devotes herself to shielding him from the bruises of life. Then she learns from Buzz that he and Holland had met in the military psychiatric hospital and that they had been lovers. Now he wants Holland back, and he’s prepared to pay.

Greer’s story of the taboos and racism of mid-century America unfolds delicate as a flower in a gentle parting of petals, but the sense of foreboding and perhaps doom pervades in his atmospheric prose and the telling incident that feel secretive. Yet, Greer holds nothing back, warning us from the opening of the book what kind of story he is going to tell us, “We think we know the ones we love, and though we should not be surprised to find that we don’t, it is heartbreak nonetheless.”

This is a unique American Gothic tale with balanced overtones of shattering betrayal and ultimately, exquisite kindness. It is a book about the lengths people will go to avoid becoming cannon fodder in war, about the silent depths with which they love one another, and about the width of one man’s “curious” human heart.

A best read of the year. Now want to read Greer’s earlier novel, "The Confessions of Max Tivoli." ( )
  Limelite | Sep 27, 2013 |
I think I preferred The Confessions of Max Tivoli to this one, but Greer delivers the same heartbreakingly beautiful prose that I loved in Tivoli.

I can't wait for his next one. ( )
  usefuljack | May 17, 2013 |
I think I preferred The Confessions of Max Tivoli to this one, but Greer delivers the same heartbreakingly beautiful prose that I loved in Tivoli.

I can't wait for his next one. ( )
  usefuljack | May 17, 2013 |
I found this book to be quite silly. The characters, especially the main character Pearlie, an African American woman, are unbelievable. There are some interesting tidbits about San Francisco in the mid-fifties, but the storyline is preposterous. I had read Max Tivoli and liked it, but this book is a groaner. If it was a movie it would qualify for Mystery Science Theater commentary. ( )
  hayduke | Apr 3, 2013 |
I really enjoyed The Confessions of Max Tivoli, so when I heard that Andrew Sean Greer had a new book on its way, I jumped at the chance to read the galley. I'm so glad I did!

This book is wonderful - really a four-and-a-half star book. You know I love a good twist, and this book has not just one, but two (which obviously I am not going to give away, except to say that this is not a mystery in any way). Greer continues to use his command of language to craft a compelling narrative about the bonds between people, their fragilities, strengths, & complexities. I'm just saying, read the book. Seriously. ( )
  cat-ballou | Apr 2, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
A timeless story of conflicting loyalties, “The Story of a Marriage” has roots in the fiction of Poe’s era, but, fittingly enough, its plot is firmly anchored in the vividly described America of the early 1950s — a seemingly serene era whose submerged social, racial and political tensions would soon create their own disruptions and upheavals.
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We think we know the ones we love.
I was in my seventies by then; the first time I realized my age was when I tried on a scarf in San Francisco and said it was a little bright for an old woman like me, expecting the clerk to contradict me, and when he didn’t, I saw myself at last for what I was.
What is it like for men? Even now I can't tell you. To have to hold up the world and never show the strain. To pretend at every moment: pretend to be strong, and wise, and good, and faithful. But nobody is strong or wise or good or faithful, not really. It turns out everyone is faking it as best they can.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374108668, Hardcover)

From the bestselling author of The Confessions of Max Tivoli, a love story full of secrets and astonishments set in 1950s San Francisco
“We think we know the ones we love.” So Pearlie Cook begins her indirect and devastating exploration of the mystery at the heart of every relationship, how we can ever truly know another person.

It is 1953 and Pearlie, a dutiful housewife, finds herself living in the Sunset district of San Francisco, caring not only for her husband’s fragile health but also for her son, who is afflicted with polio. Then, one Saturday morning, a stranger appears on her doorstep and everything changes. All the certainties by which Pearlie has lived are thrown into doubt. Does she know her husband at all? And what does the stranger want in return for his offer of $100,000? For six months in 1953, young Pearlie Cook struggles to understand the world around her, most especially her husband, Holland.
Pearlie’s story is a meditation not only on love but also on the effects of war—with one war just over and another one in Korea coming to a close. Set in a climate of fear and repression—political, sexual, and racial—The Story of a Marriage portrays three people trapped by the confines of their era, and the desperate measures they are prepared to take to escape it. Lyrical and surprising, The Story of a Marriage looks back at a period that we tend to misremember as one of innocence and simplicity.
Like Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier, Andrew Sean Greer’s novel is a narrative tour de force that confirms him as “one of the most talented writers around” (Michael Chabon).

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:36:27 -0400)

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Caring for her ill husband and son in 1953 San Francisco, dutiful housewife Pearlie questions everything she has ever believed about her husband after the appearance of a stranger who mysteriously offers her a considerable sum of money.

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