On the Bookseller’s Bookshelf: The Marriage Plot

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Although I think the book is beautiful (that font!), I have to say that the title and cover art of Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot is making it a bit of a tough sell for customers, who seem to think it’s chick lit. But this book isn’t candy-coated wish-fulfillment fiction like Shopaholic or Bridget Jones’ Diary. It is …

… an examination of how the things we learn in college (especially in liberal arts) do and do not apply to real life.
… a study of how we change as we pass into adulthood.
… a difficult and authentic portrait of mental illness.
… an exploration of how love in the modern world isn’t all that different than it ever was, and how, at the same time, it’s completely changed.

The Marriage Plot is a love story (or love stories, I guess), but it’s never trite, shallow or simple. Eugenides, who also wrote The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex, crafts epic stories that move so calmly that you almost don’t notice their depth until you’ve finished reading. He shapes his characters with small details that seem insignificant (how he orders his pie, what she thinks of the books she reads) but march us steadily toward an incredible familiarity with each character. As a reader, you journey through an epic plot that never seems forced.

 

 

The Marriage Plot is kind of about marriage, but it’s just as much about philosophy, religion, Jane Austen, scholarship, class divides and valium. It’s about why we love the people we love and how timing is sometimes the most important catalyst in which relationships work and which don’t. And that’s the kind of literature everyone — not just chicks — can relate to.

Carrie Rollwagen is book buyer and co-owner at Church Street Coffee & Books. She also writes Shop Small, a blog about buying locally in Alabama.

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