Audiobook Review: The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer

Title: The Story of a Marriage
Author: Andrew Sean Greer
Genre: Contemporary fiction, literary fiction
Publisher: Picador
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: S. Epatha Merkerson
First line: We think we know the ones we love.

It is 1953, and Pearlie is an African-American housewife caring for her polio-afflicted son and her husband, Holland. Before their marriage, Holland’s aunts warned Pearlie of his weak heart, and Pearlie spends her time protecting him from anything upsetting. One day, Holland’s former employer, Buzz Droomer, shows up on their doorstep, and Pearlie is left wondering if she ever knew her husband at all.

The Story of a Marriage is a small, deceptively simple book that is exactly what the title says it is: the story of a marriage. Pearlie and Holland were high school sweethearts who lost track of each other when Holland went to war. They meet again after the war in San Francisco, get married, and have a son. Their life is uncomplicated. Pearlie stays home and cares for the house and their child; Holland works all day. In the evenings, they listen to the news and Groucho Marx together and have a nightcap. Occasionally, they visit Holland’s aunts, two older ladies who love to gossip.

At the heart of Pearlie and Holland’s story is this question: how well do we know the ones we love? I can’t tell you more about this book without giving away plot points, and you’ll want to go into this one unspoiled. The author does a wonderful job of getting inside Pearlie’s head – it is very unusual to read a book in first person where the narrator is female and the author is male and have it sound natural, but Greer pulls it off.

As good as the writing is, however, I was left feeling a bit cold. I wanted to know how the story turned out, but it didn’t excite me or involve me emotionally, and I think the main reason is that I had a very hard time relating to Pearlie and the choices she made and actions she took during the course of the book.

Audio notes: S. Epatha Merkerson became Pearlie in the audio edition; I’m not sure I would have pushed through to finish had I been reading it in print. Listening to it read in Pearlie’s voice was like having her tell me her story in person – the producers could not have found a better narrator.

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11 Responses to Audiobook Review: The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer

  1. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion

    I love the premise of the book. Sorry to see you didn’t connect with Pearlie. I think I’d still give the book a try.

  2. Kim
    Twitter: BookstoreK

    I’m glad I read the book, but I felt it was a bit of a stretch at times. It frustrated me that the characters didn’t talk to each other because anyone who has been married for years knows that even with communication, you’re spouse can surprise you. I wondered if the author is just too young to realize that so used the crutch of no communication to support his ‘you never know your spouse’ theme.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Kim – I agree – that was part of what drove me crazy -the plans Pearlie made with Buzz and never talking to Holland. I couldn’t imagine doing that.

  3. I really liked this book, but there was a bit of an emotional disconnect. I can imagine the audiobook probably helped with that.

  4. JoAnn
    Twitter: lakesidemusing

    I absolutely LOVED this reader! Don’t remember much about the story, but do remember feeling that Pearlie was speaking to ME. Just checked audible and see that she is the narrator for Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende. My wishlist just got a little longer 🙂

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      JoAnn – I’ve been meaning to give Allende a try – will have to see if the library has that one!

  5. stacybuckeye says:

    I like the idea of the book and love S. 🙂

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Stacy – this was my first experience with her reading, but definitely won’t be my last!

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