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The Story of a Marriage: A Novel Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374108668
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374108663
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #924,416 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. As he demonstrated in the imaginative The Confessions of Max Tivoli, Greer can spin a touching narrative based on an intriguing premise. Even a diligent reader will be surprised by the revelations twisting through this novel and will probably turn back to the beginning pages to find the oblique hints hidden in Greer's crystalline prose. In San Francisco in 1953, narrator Pearlie relates the circumstances of her marriage to Holland Cook, her childhood sweetheart. Pearlie's sacrifices for Holland begin when they are teenagers and continue when the two reunite a few years later, marry and have an adored son. The reappearance in Holland's life of his former boss and lover, Buzz Drumer, propels them into a triangular relationship of agonizing decisions. Greer expertly uses his setting as historical and cultural counterpoint to a story that hinges on racial and sexual issues and a climate of fear and repression. Though some readers may find it overly sentimental, this is a sensitive exploration of the secrets hidden even in intimate relationships, a poignant account of people helpless in the throes of passion and an affirmation of the strength of the human spirit.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

San Francisco in the 1950s may have seemed like a simpler time, but for African American wife and mother Pearlie Cook, it is anything but. Settled in the city’s Sunset District with her African American husband, Holland, she is wholly unprepared for the news imparted by a stranger who appears one Saturday morning at her door. He is Charles “Buzz” Drumer, a handsome white man who shared a room with Holland in a military hospital during World War II. (Holland had seen battle, Buzz had not. He was a conscientious objector, or, Pearlie wonders, was he just a coward?) Buzz’s astonishing admission (nope—not telling) and the request that follows rattle Pearlie’s peaceful world. She must make a heartbreaking decision, not only for herself, but for her polio-stricken son. Greer (The Confessions of Max Tivoli, 2004) sets this emotionally wrenching tale in a U.S. rife with strife—recovering from one war, mired in yet another, and grappling daily with the prickly issue of race. A haunting, thought-provoking novel about the liabilities of love. --Allison Block

More About the Author

Andrew Sean Greer is the bestselling author of five works of fiction, including The Story of a Marriage, which The New York Times has called an "inspired, lyrical novel," and The Confessions of Max Tivoli, which was named a best book of 2004 by the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Tribune. He is the recipient of the Northern California Book Award, the California Book Award, the New York Public Library Young Lions Award, the O Henry Award for short fiction and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Public Library. Greer lives in San Francisco. His latest novel is The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells.

Customer Reviews

It's beautifully written.
N. M. Deniro
Greer is an incredible craftsman of culturally relevent issues who can weive then into the most intimate and touching relationship...a marriage.
In the interest of maintaining suspense about plot twists, the author withheld too much about characters' perspectives.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 70 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
It's relatively rare that I pick up a piece of non-genre contemporary American literature, my tastes just don't generally range that way. However, in this case, the cover caught my eye, and the jacket copy was promising enough to get me started. And once I dipped into the book, Greer's prose was more than enough to keep me reading all the way through. Even though the story is rather sparsely plotted, it brims with tension and intimacy until the very end, and I highly recommend it to readers who favor domestic dramas.

The story takes place in San Francisco, circa 1953, but not in the part of town books and films are usually set in. Rather, it mostly takes place in the Sunset, a neighborhood in the Western part of the city which rolls down from the hills to the Pacific (and one I once lived in, just off the same street as the protagonists). Narrated by Pearlie, the story tells of her childhood crush Holland, and her later marriage to him following WWII. It's clear from the start (and various oblique hints throughout) that there are some deep secrets in this story, both in terms of Holland, and in terms of the story itself. The first section ends with an attempt on the author's part to surprise the reader, although I suspect most (like myself) will have seen through the pretense quite early on.

The next section delves into Pearlie's attempt to understand Holland, who suffered some kind of unspecified injury during the war, leaving him with a "weak" heart. Her attempt to understand her husband is both aided and confused by the reappearance of his former boss, and this man's easy insertion into their life as their only friend. This builds up to a narrative revelation which pretty much every reader will have guessed long before Pearlie is let in on the secret.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Phern Hunt on December 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I agree with those who found this novel lacking in depth and content. The central thesis of the novel just doesn't hold: how can Pearlie believe Buzz, with his story about an affair he had with her husband Holland, and never even mention it to him? I kept thinking thoughout the book that the author was going to make it clear that Buzz was creating this 'story' for some other purpose...but he doesn't; nor does anything ever happen between him and Holland. Pearlie never once reflects on her thoughts or feelings about homosexuality, and this is 1953!...but she does believe that her husband loved another person...improbable! I can believe that she would not speak about homosexuality, but she would certainly think about it, and the author does not reveal that in any way. Unlike the fantastic film Far From Heaven, attitudes about homosexuality, race and gender, are not explored from the cultural context of San Francisco 1953. Instead, Pearlie ponders the life of Ethel Rosenberg, a person quite unlike herself and her current life situation. I agree with the reader who noted that the author was unable to evoke a female, or black female character.
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56 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Stanley H. Nemeth on May 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I am surprised to see so many novelists of distinction and readers as well declaring this novel a triumph. In my view, it's far from that, not even being very good, and this for a number of reasons. First of all, the surprising plot twists which occur far too often throughout the slim book violate the reasonable principle that experienced readers will prefer even impossible events if they've been made probable over merely possible events, if an author leaves such as just wildly improbable. Greer seems to have thought his readers resembled kids at an old Saturday matinee featuring serials rife with weekly cliff-hangers. Every 10 pages or so, I was tempted to bellow forth, "Yeah, right!"

The narrative of the book is a pastiche, consisting of borrowings from the film "Far From Heaven" as well as from two other fairly recent films having to do with the purchase of someone else's spouse. Greer, unlike Shakespeare, unfortunately does not improve upon his sources. From books, the author is heavily indebted to Stendhal's theories of crystalization in love and Proust's far more profound and moving treatments of time and erotic obsession. Perhaps most disappointing is Greer's inclination to present platitudes as fresh truths. Thus, the notion that no one can fully and finally understand anyone else, much less himself - Greer's philosophy here - is presented as tantamount to the discovery of the wheel. Unfortunately, this set of ideas, the basis by the way of the strikingly innovative dramaturgy in "Hamlet," emerges in this novel not as hard won truth but rather as easy cliche.

The three main characters, Pearlie, Buzz, and Holland, are all lacking in sufficient interiority to hold one's attention. As "vessels of consciousness," their vision is extraordinarily restricted.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Brett Benner VINE VOICE on June 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was an odd book for me in that it's written with such delicate and intimate beauty,and yet I felt myself emotionally detached from the proceedings. Early on there are some revelations that literally caused me to take in a sharp intake of breath at their cleverness, and yet as the story unfolded, Pearlie's musings on love and the choices we make while beautifully written never completely got me invested. Greer is an interesting writer and between this and his previous book,'The Confessions of Max Tivoli', proves he has an inventive imagination. I just wish I could've connected a bit more.
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