Oh my! There was a considerable lapse of time between my last cover-to-cover reading and this one. On occasion, I left a book or two unfinished, most of which were placed at random next to my pillow, on the side table, in between sofa cushions, or beneath some junk. I have to walk around and collect them once in a while in case they are cast away. Here, I come to colonize my sister’s desk to bear my pleasurable guilt. What a daunting pile of books.
The Amateur Marriage was not something I purchased on a whim. In fact, I picked two of Anne Tyler’s novels as some bookaholic blogger recommends. Novels that deal with family issues always draw my attention. It makes no sense that I skip this widely acclaimed writer for that matter. However, Western value of family and kinship seems so implausible to me because I find in movies or novels that the perspective often detaches itself from me.
But Anne Tyler dose not disappoint me for sure. From this reading experience, I realize that I jumped to conclusion, assuming that there’s no common ground between my personal belief and the values in the novels I have read so far. I suppose my previous readings were just not as intriguing and inviting.
Still, it took some patience and effort to page through chapter one. Thankfully, I resisted the urge to give up so soon. As I read on, the story unfolded itself and elicited nostalgic feelings from me. However, it was not the marital problems that I identify with. (Despite the fact that I am too young for these worries, I do recognize in its depiction some marital trivia and clashes that we all try to find an answer to. My life is filled with a myriad of problematic marriages. I have seen countless failures and have been raised up in one. This novel certainly provides nothing but a typical one. But the ending is quite satisfying, though.)
The charm of this novel lies in it attempts to clarify this universal pattern: we tend to hold on to our first impression of someone, have faith in that image, and refuse to deny our own choice when things go so wrong, and hypnotize ourselves that he or she will in time be the person you think you know so well. But the truth is that you barely know each other, and it makes it even more pathetic when you wake up at night, murmuring so many what-ifs to yourself.
I wonder if I will ever make this common mistake. Or I might have been in one but haven’t woken up to the fact that this person, whoever she/he is, is not worth my time.
In addition to its story-line, what I like about The Amateur Marriage is the narrator’s tone. Anne Tyler is so great at this—-being so sarcastic but by all means sympathetic at the same time. It allows readers to be aloof and observe this cosmic irony taking place. When the characters’ lives are derailed and come to an unexpected turn, I just couldn’t neglect a twinge of misery. Hopefully, this gnawing feeling oftentimes is compromised by the narrator’s sarcasm. Perhaps, this mixture of emotions is what the author embraces to face harsh reality.