I love Jeffrey Eugenides, but it took me a long time to get to “The Marriage Plot.” I’m not sure why. I liked it a lot, but I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite of his. I’ve decided this because I actually finished it weeks ago, but it didn’t stick with me the way “Middlesex” did–so I think Middlesex takes the prize for my favorite Eugenides book thus far.
Set in the 1980s, The Marriage Plot follows three people who are just finishing college–Madeleine Hanna, Leonard Bankhead and Mitchell Grammaticus. The book follows the point of view of both Madeleine and Mitchell, but I’d say Madeleine is the center of the story. She, at different points in the book, is involved with both men, eventually staying with Leonard. But they all graduate college and, when entering the real world, discover things aren’t always what they imagined them to be. Madeleine and Leonard move to Cape Cod for Leonard’s job while Mitchell backpacks around India.
I liked Mitchell a lot. He’s a mess, he has no idea who he is, but I still like him. Probably because he decides wandering the globe is a good way to try to figure things out. It’s something I wish I would’ve done more of. Madeleine I wasn’t as fond of, she just seemed to have a sense of duty so strong it was harmful. Sometimes, girl, you just have to say no. And Leonard … he’s a necessary character, and his flaws are not his fault, but he’s a tough one to read about.
The book went quickly: I finished it in a few days. That said, my one complaint is that there aren’t chapters. There are, I believe, five sections of the book, but no chapters within the sections. Personal preference, maybe, but it’s nice to have a good stopping point when reading before bed, for example. This book doesn’t provide that, and it might be one of the reasons I finished it so fast. When there’s no chapter break, I tend to just keep reading.
I also like how this novel ended. It felt real to me, and it wasn’t the ending I sometimes think books get because that’s what a movie would require. It wasn’t happy, but it wasn’t overly sad. It was just what needed to happen for these characters. I gave this book got four out of five stars on Goodreads. Looking forward to the next Eugenides book.