Is it harder to write or to wed?

Neither matrimony nor writing is easy, suggests Joshua Henkin in his thoughtful novel about a young husband in a writer’s workshop.

Call it the marriage penalty. But this one doesn’t come courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service. It is a truism universally acknowledged that nothing kills off a fictional romance faster than marriage. Even Jane Austen faded to black after her heroines were safely hitched – there were no scenes of Elizabeth and Darcy arguing about the bills or whose turn it was to pick up little Fitzwilliam Jr. from preschool.

Married couples tend to be either comically miserable or frankly at war, a la James Thurber or Edward Albee, or they’re parents, and the mess they’re making of that job is the focus of the novel. Or, they’re the token married couple who squabble cutely in the corner, away from the action.

Enter Joshua Henkin, whose quiet, thoughtful novel Matrimony takes a serious look at the “ties that bind and gag,” as Erma Bombeck put it. Julian Wainwright and Mia Mendelsohn meet in college and end up getting married their senior year, after Mia’s mom is diagnosed with a terminal illness. The book follows the couple over 20 years – chronicling their insecurities, betrayals, and griefs, while including the leavening faith that allows two people to commit, and recommit, to each other.

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