The most recent novel by the beloved Jeffrey Eugenides (author of Middlesex + Virgin Suicides) (recent meaning, 2011- come on Eugenides!) has been sitting on my shelf for a few years, and I finally took it down from its dusty place holder back in September. It follows three post-college-grads through a triangle relationship and perfectly articulates that sticky feeling that is forever looming- 'what am I doing with my life?' with dashes of unrequited love (my favorite!), neurotic family members (another favorite!) and beautiful metaphors on depression and love/admiration.
From goodreads.com: It’s the early 1980s. In American colleges, the wised-up kids are inhaling Derrida and listening to Talking Heads. But Madeleine Hanna, dutiful English major, is writing her senior thesis on Jane Austen and George Eliot, purveyors of the marriage plot that lies at the heart of the greatest English novels. As Madeleine studies the age-old motivations of the human heart, real life, in the form of two very different guys, intervenes. Leonard Bankhead - charismatic loner and college Darwinist - suddenly turns up in a seminar, and soon Madeleine finds herself in a highly charged erotic and intellectual relationship with him. At the same time, her old friend Mitchell Grammaticus - who’s been reading Christian mysticism and generally acting strange - resurfaces, obsessed with the idea that Madeleine is destined to be his mate.
Over the next year, as the members of the triangle in this spellbinding novel graduate from college and enter the real world, events force them to reevaluate everything they have learned. Leonard and Madeleine move to a biology laboratory on Cape Cod, but can’t escape the secret responsible for Leonard’s seemingly inexhaustible energy and plunging moods. And Mitchell, traveling around the world to get Madeleine out of his mind, finds himself face-to-face with ultimate questions about the meaning of life, the existence of God, and the true nature of love.
Are the great love stories of the nineteenth century dead? Or can there be a new story, written for today and alive to the realities of feminism, sexual freedom, prenups, and divorce? With devastating wit and an abiding understanding of and affection for his characters, Jeffrey Eugenides revives the motivating energies of the novel, while creating a story so contemporary and fresh that it reads like the intimate journal of our own lives.
Despite popular opinion (based on 4/5 people that I know who have read The Marriage Plot), I actually really enjoyed it. My favorite types of books mirror this style; alternate perspectives of the same relationship(s). My main debate is that if you head into this expecting it to be Middlesex, you will be surely disappointed, but you are missing out if that is what stops you from swallowing it up. This story totally stands alone + probably would have been more well-known if Eugenides wrote it under a pen name. If you loved Fates and Furies (LIKE ME!), then pick up this book next. It takes a bit to get into, buts really good.
Side note: this book takes the cake for best international cover editions. Google it!