Joshua Henkin was true to his word and sent me a signed copy of his novel Matrimony. I started it as soon as I could and finished it rather quickly.
Matrimony is the story of Julian Wainwright, a college student from a well-to-do NYC family who begins Graymont College in 1986. The novel starts there and follows Julian through the next 20 years of his life. As part of his story, we also hear the story of his college sweetheart, Mia, and to a lesser extent, his friends with Carter and Pilar.
This novel is a character study. The author delves into his characters and shows them developing over a lifetime. While describing events in the present, the author often digresses into a past experience or memory that explains why the characters may be reacting as they are. At first, this style is a little difficult to follow, but as the novel progresses, it becomes easier. And, it does add to the understanding of each person.
Joshua Henkin’s characters are quite flawed. These are by no means idealized characters, but “real” people. They struggle with disappointment, grief, love, betrayal and friendship in different ways. And, based on the background that Henkin provides throughout the book, their reactions are believable, if not what you would do.
What I did struggle with was the type of characters these were. While they did seem real to me, I did not relate to them very well. I didn’t have the types of conversations with my friends in college like they seemed to have. I didn’t consider some of the issues that plagued these four individuals. I guess I don’t have as much depth to me as these four seemed to have.
Joshua Henkin also deals with socioeconomic class issues throughout the novel. Those who “have” and don’t seem to really think about it and those who don’t and always think about it. I found this portion of the novel interesting and have never read about it in this manner before. This issue affects the friendships and subsequent marriages throughout the characters’ life stories; in different ways during different stages of their lives.
Overall, I liked this book even though the writing style took some getting used to. And, there isn’t too much action, if that’s what you’re looking for in a book. However, if you really enjoy character-driven books like I do, I would recommend it.