Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

From One Marriage, Universal Questions; Tyler's Exquisite Probe of Everyday Life

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

From One Marriage, Universal Questions; Tyler's Exquisite Probe of Everyday Life

Article excerpt

Title: The Amateur Marriage

Author: Anne Tyler

Data: Alfred A. Knopf, 306 pages, $24.95

Review by BRANDY HILBOLDT ALLPORT The Times-Union

In The Amateur Marriage, Anne Tyler invents a world of character-driven fiction that is palpably real. Creating such an experience is Tyler's exquisite talent and a reader's exquisite pleasure.

By the middle of the second page, you become an invisible onlooker inside Anton's Grocery on a Monday afternoon in December 1941. Michael Anton shelves Woodbury soap bars for his widowed mother. A few blocks away from the Polish Eastern Avenue Baltimore neighborhood, a parade forms to honor the newly enlisted boys -- we'll be home by New Year's, rah, rah. Impetuous, pretty Pauline Barclay scrapes her face when she jumps off a street car to join the excitement.

She and her girlfriends rush into Anton's in search of a bandage. Michael patches up Pauline, and "didn't even slow down. He was halfway up the block . . . with three girls trailing him and a fourth one at his side. She clung to the crook of his left arm and skimmed along next to him in her brilliant red coat."

The plodding, deliberate Michael and the madcap Pauline wed. Tyler's book chronicles Pauline and Mich ael's marriage, which mirrors thousands of other Boomer-bearing parents. They move out of the apartment above the store to the suburbs. They raise three children, upgrade Anton's neighborhood grocery to a supermarket and buy a multiple-piece dinette set. All of Pauline and Michael's friends who wed amid the war fervor seem to grow up together and adjust to the everyday life and its small joys. A life punctuated by periods of passion and continuity and the bewildering frustration that constitutes married life.

Pauline and Michael can't seem to do it. She craves some sort of unnamable excitement, a life where she's perceived as "Pauline," not as "Mother" and "Wife. …

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