Thursday, July 19, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Jeffrey Eugenides is a marvelous writer, but overwhelming somehow. I feel like I’m so far behind, I’ll never catch up on his books. It isn’t that the body of work is so huge, it’s just that there is no excuse for me to be behind at all. I remember when Middlesex was first released. I remember thinking: That sounds interesting. I should read that. I remember when it just sounded like a good book–before it was a Pulitzer prize winner. That was about ten years ago! How can a book be on my TBR list for ten years?

So, when I heard the The Marriage Plot was coming out, I decided I’d jump in and read that instead, or maybe before I got any farther behind. That was about a year ago, right? But at least it wasn’t ten years ago.

The Marriage Plot is about three young adults who have just graduated from Brown University. It isn't so much about what they are going to do, but about who they are. It's about relationships. Aside from the fact that they are all studious and intelligent, each is very different from the others. They have different backgrounds and personality types. There is Madeline Hanna, the female. A pretty, athletic, romantic English major, she comes from a wealthy, supportive family. There is Leonard, the biology major, whose parents are alcoholics and divorced. He is handsome, charming, witty, and he is the one who wins Madeline’s heart. But, just before graduation, Madeline learns that he is manic-depressive. A lot of what happens revolves around this fact about Leonard. Finally, there is Mitchell. He is shy around girls but obsessed with Madeline. They are "friends" despite the fact that Mitchell wants something more. He’s a brilliant religious studies major, who is both studying and seeking God.

The story is completely character-driven and utterly absorbing. It follows Madeline, Leonard, and Mitchell in the year after their graduation and, through the use of many flashbacks, it fills the reader in on their lives up to and through college. Eugenides knows his subjects (and their subjects) intimately and he’s able to take the reader right back into that college-age mind-set. Experiencing so much right alongside the three protagonists helped me empathize with their problems, which run the gamut from typical teenage adjustment stuff to the heartbreaking complexity of living with mental illness.

One of these days, I still hope to read Middlesex. But for now, I can at least say I’ve read something by Jeffrey Eugenides and I’m very glad I did.


  1. I'm the opposite - I've read all the Eugenides book apart from this one. I'm scared to read it because I liked the other two so much! :P

  2. I liked Mr. Eugenides so much, I went to the library to get his other books, only to be disappointed they only carried this book. Guess I'll have to buy the others. I look forward to more adventures thanks to this fabulous author.
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