I wanted to liked this book more than I did. It has earned a great many accolades, including earning a place on several Best Book of the Year lists, and such rave reviews as:
"Bewitching ... A book whose linguistic prowess ad raw storytelling power is almost disruptive to the reader. It's too good to put down and yet each passage is also too good to leave behind."
Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Times
Khaled Housseini: "a book about love, and it is a marvel to watch Greer probe the mysteries of love to such devastating effect."
"A beautiful, lyrical novel ... a book full of urgent questions."
O, The Oprah Magazine, Recommended Summer Reading.
The Story of a Marriage is a love triangle. It is 1953. Pearlie Cook, a young African American housewife, "lives in the Sunset District in San Francisco, [and is] caring not only for her husband's fragile health, but also for her son, who is afflicted with polio." Enter Buzz, a former soldier, like her husband, Holland, and her husband's wartime lover, and Buzz wants Holland back. Yes, clearly there are urgent questions that each must ask and attempt to answer. And Greer's writing is beautiful and lyrical, and he is probing the mysteries of love, as Holland, Pearlie, and Buzz make the painful and necessary decisions to go on with their lives.
So, why did I only give this two stars? I did so because I wasn't convinced; I wanted more answers to these questions. I wanted to understand why Holland makes the choice he does, and why Pearlie accepts it and why Buzz does as well. Yes, the mysteries of the human heart are many, and maybe that is the point: some questions can only be asked. Any answers must be understand as a life is lived.
I also wanted more passion. Greer is a thoughtful, intelligent writer. Here, I felt the need for a greater sense of the passion, and the pain for these people. There was, for me, an odd flatness. True, Pearlie tells her story as one who is looking back and trying to make sense of the different choices made-some detachment seems inevitable and natural. But pain and passion do survive in memory.
But the front pages are filled with critical praise. Sometimes individual readers differ.