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The Amateur Marriage

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In many of Anne Tyler’s books, a character leaves – just leaves – does what so many of us may think about in a weak moment but would never actually do. In The Amateur Marriage, several people leave. The first is a teenage daughter, whose leaving tears the parents apart and also keeps them together. It defines the lives of everyone in the family. It shows them to themselves in ways they would never have chosen to see.

This is what I love about Anne Tyler’s novels – they show us to ourselves. She understands, as one reviewer described, the Norman Rockwell portrait of America life, and makes it bleed. The couple in The Amateur Marriage met during World War II, kissed each other goodbye, looked so good together, and spent thirty years wondering what they had ever seen in each other. They wondered if they might have been happier with someone else, someone they fought with less, someone more like themselves.

Anne Tyler’s characters feel like us or our parents, our neighbors and friends. They’re so real, so unglamorous, so flawed and beautiful for it. They regret and debate and second-guess and worry. They flounder and fall down and only start living when they stumble onto courage they didn’t think they had.

After a couple weeks of Dan Brown and Clive Cussler, whose thrillers I do love, I was ready for the warmth and familiar longing of an Anne Tyler novel. While this one may not be as good as Breathing Lessons or The Accidental Tourist, I recommend The Amateur Marriage. On the Book Beat for KSL Newsradio 1160, I’m Amanda Dickson.

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