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The Amateur Marriage.

The Amateur Marriage

Anne Tyler

Knopf

1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019

1400042070, $24.95, 320 pages

We have all read books that rehash the same tired motif of the fairy tale relationship. Even when these stories are laced with reality, the authors seem to wrap up the stories neatly with a nice ending. Life is not always so tidy or sweet. Anne Tyler graces her readers with a beautiful story that would rival that of a fairy tale, but it is about real life, with real characters with only the most understated notions of glamour.

Tyler's gives us her first dose of reality when Michael and Pauline fall in love in the romantic frenzy of early WWII. Young men are running off to enlist in the Army, and young women are busy romanticizing the soldiers' struggle to protect their homeland. Michael enlists in the Army and quickly returns home from boot camp after he is accidentally shot during a training evolution. Although his wound is not serious enough to cripple him, it does keep him from serving abroad.

There the real journey begins. Michael and Pauline marry without any of the misty-eyed romance of a soldier returning home to his war bride. Their marriage isn't a glorious reunion after angst-ridden months of separation. Instead, it is subdued, entirely human, and far from perfect. Pauline wants more from life than Michael can give her. She is ambitious, manic, and largely unsatisfied with the life her grocery-store-owner husband provides for her. In contrast, Michael seems emotionally distant, content to steer clear of life's many peaks and valleys as he plods through his daily routine.

Tyler truly shines as she defines the course of their marriage. A subtle tension ripples just below the surface, and she skillfully hints at the larger problems that inevitably result from the pairing of such mismatched personalities. Tyler recognizes that marriage is a partnership, and that far too many people slip into flawed relationships based on an ill-founded infatuation. Michael clings to an image of his wife seared into his mind during the passion of their initial encounter, all the while longing for a wife who only wants to share his peaceful existence. The quiet desperation that permeates 'The Amateur Marriage' is all too real. Tyler is a first-rate author, and her beautifully drawn novel is a wonderful success.
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Author:Merritt, Julie
Publication:Reviewer's Bookwatch
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2005
Words:392
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