Pauline, impulsive, impractical, tumbles hit-or-miss through life; Michael, plodding, cautious, judgmental, proceeds deliberately. While other young marrieds, equally ignorant at the start, seemed to grow more seasoned, Pauline and Michael remain amateurs. In time their foolish quarrels take their toll. Even when they find themselves, almost thirty years later, loving, instant parents to a little grandson named Pagan, whom they rescue from Haight-Ashbury, they still cannot bridge their deep-rooted differences. Flighty Pauline clings to the notion that the rifts can always be patched. To the unyielding Michael, they become unbearable.
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 fully into the complex entanglements of family life in this wise, embracing, and deeply perceptive novel.
©2004 Anne Tyler; (P)2004 Random House, Inc., Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.
"[Anne] Tyler's strength resides in her penetrating psychological portraits and delight in mundane details, and these gifts are evident....Her observations about how abruptly even the most boring life can go wrong, and about the fact that we are all amateurs in our first marriages, are poignant." (Booklist)
"Yes, Tyler intuitively understands the middle class' Norman Rockwell ideal, but she doesn't share it; rather, she has a masterful ability to make it bleed." (Publishers Weekly)
I thoroughly enjoyed this, as I do all of Tyler's books. She has a way of capturing exactly what you are feeling, and of embracing life with all its imperfections. I am surprised that others found the story uninteresting. I was completely caught up in it, to the point that I turned it on in my car even if I was going a short distance. It is true that one of the main characters is almost unbearably depressing toward the end, but I like books that do not shy away from difficult subjects, and I thought the ending nicely redeemed this thread. Not for those who want a happy story, but great for those who want writing that beautifully articulates the human condition.
l'enfer c'est les autres
Our natures determine who we are. The way we see the world whether through our passions, intuition, reason or rational thought (logic) makes our basic essence. The two main characters in this story have different essences and they and their family must learn to adapt or separate. Sometimes, reality is more complex than fiction will allow and our nature is changed by adding another unit. Unfortunately, for the protagonists in this story that is not the case.
It turns out that truth can be stranger than fiction and a true story with all the same kinds of characters this book contains has already been written by the founder of Audible, Donald Katz, in the book "Home Fires: An Intimate Portrait of One Middle-Class Family in Postwar America". I would even bet that Anne Tyler was inspired by that book (not that there is anything wrong with that) and loosely based her story on that book, because all the characters within the "Amateur Marriage" have a counterpart within "Home Fires" and their story is more completely told while giving insights to the time period in greater detail.
Truth can enlighten more than fiction and in the case of "Home Fires" it entertains even more than fiction did.
Human, warm and real, characters fully developed. Funny, even hilarious moments, and a gathering sadness. Anne Tyler is a master at conversation. Skilled narration. At the end of our trip we had a half hour remaining so we sat in the garage and heard it out.
Seems like this one is a "really like it" or "really don't like it" with listeners/readers. For me, it was one of my favorites.
Great plot, great characters, great Audible narrator. Tyler juggles characters and time very well. Even though years and years pass, you don't feel shortchanged. The story and characters still feel fully realized.
I think Spool of Blue Thread is my all-time favorite Tyler novel, however.
No, just from this author.
Lindy...mostly because I didn't have to put up with her as long.
Most of them.
I found it interesting to read the other reviews. Hard to believe in many cases we were reading the same book! Maybe if you were already an Anne Tyler fan you cut her some slack. While I cant argue that it was likely a really accurate family portrayal, when I read I want to escape real life. On the plus side, their life was SOOOOO boring it made mine seem exciting by comparison!
I really disliked the narrator's voice in this recording, and it seriously affected my view of the book. Despite the fact that I found the voice grating, I listened to the end, because the story was engrossing and gave a glimpse of life at a time that I remembered from my youth. While the main character wasn't someone I could relate to, I enjoyed following her progression through life, and found myself wanting to know more about her later life. She wasn't as interesting early on and was often trite and lacked depth. On a final, and maybe trivial, note: I strongly disliked the moody musical accompaniment to the concluding sentences of the story -- way too intrusive for me, made me feel manipulated, like I'd watched a Hallmark movie. I'd prefer just the writer's words, and nothing but the words.
This book is more a reflection of how easy it is to give up on a marriage today than anything else. Just walk away. The wife is someone I would want to walk away from, but that is not the point. The husband is no winner and the kids must manage the parents lives at some points.
Aside from the skipping around, giving no explanations or depths for significant events (the daughter running away, the wife dying), this book totally frustrated me!!
The narration was excellent. I just wish the story was as good.
What I really mean is this book is Real & Entertaining. Ms. Tyler has the talent to explore the psyche and nuances of people and display them with raw candor. Her subtle handling of her characters and the evolution of their lives was heartwarming and aluring.
I applaud her style and look forward to listening to another one of her "life" adventures.
Sometimes I am just dumbfounded as to who claims to be a writer. The writer goes into great detail describing what she bought at the grocery store or what is included in a meatloaf...but says in passing that the main character died in an accident towards the end of the book...without any elaboration or warning. She constantly skips 10-15 years without mentioning how much time has passed. It's 10 minutes into the dialogue before you discover that the 9 year old she just talked about, is now 18 and in college. "Ten years later" would have been a helpful 3 words she could have used about 10 times in the book. The things she chose to talk about were so boring I would rather watch paint dry. BOO! BOO!
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