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This book club provided an opportunity to discuss books with authors from 2009 - 2013. I like to think we were a group of daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, well... women finding time to meet while juggling daily life.

I hope you enjoy exploring The Manic Mommies Book Club Archives. We read 46 books over the years, with audio or written author discussions for each book read documented on this blog.

~ with kindness & gratitude, Mari

MMBC: Matrimony Discussion

Originally posted in the Big Tent.... view comments for full conversation.

Today we start discussing ‘Matrimony’. I encourage everyone to visit the MMBC Blog to read the Q&A with Josh Henkin. His answers may spark a discussion topic for you, or maybe another question to ask everyone. This dialog is meant to be a discussion between friends – Let’s keep the discussion causal and hopefully we learning something new about each other along the way.

Below you will find 8 questions to help with the dialog. You don’t have to answer all of them; they are here to spark conversation:

1. What was your overall view of the book? Did you enjoy it?

2. Did you have a favorite character (include why you liked the character)?

3. Did you have a favorite part in the book?

4. Illness (page 70): I really enjoyed a lot of the dialog in the book, Mia says “let her mother live till seventy”. I said this when my mom was diagnosed cancer, thinking about your family/friends diagnosed with a life threatening disease…did this help you relate to Mia as a character? Then Mia is diagnosed with cancer towards the end of the book, her decisions might surprise some of us. How would you have handled the situation (Julian and Mia end up having a child, she postpones the decision for mastectomy. Julian mentions they may try for another child so she can breast feed. The future is uncertain)?

5. Goals (page 93): Julian wanted to publish his novel by 25 and was regretting saying this out loud. Thinking back to your young 20’s, do you have any goals that you haven’t achieved that you wish did? If yes, can you still achieve them?

6. Marriage (page 121) – “the bad days are investments in the good ones” – Julian and Mia are starting to have relationship struggles. Were you able to relate to their marriage?

7. Friendship and Infidelity (page 156) – Carter admits to sleeping with Mia spring of their senior year. Julian almost under reacts but this leads to their separation – how did you reach to reading this? Did you think Carter would re-enter the novel? Why? Were you surprised by Julian’s reaction/conversation with Mia?

8. Divorce (page 195) – Julian’s mom calls and tells him “Dad’s gone. He left me” - dealing with parents divorcing can be hard for a grown child. As Julian has a family of his own, how do you think this will impact his life?


  1. I’m not a MM but am reading along with you. I look forward to reading everyone’s posts in the coming week. I have picked this book up so many times at the bookstore but hadn’t had a chance to read it until this book was selected for your book club.

    Having met my husband in college, we lived through a few years of growing pains in our late twenties. I was able to relate to Julian and Mia’s life in Michigan. As I tell my kids, don’t marry until your late twenties… you need to find yourself first, understand your goals, values etc… which continue to develop after your graduate from college.

    I really enjoyed this book and have recommended it to my face-to-face book club. We are reading it later this summer.


  2. I really enjoyed this book. I think the fact that I married very young, while my husband was still in college, helped me to relate to the book more. I completely agree with the phrase "the bad days are investments in the good ones." You have to know that to be able to hold a marriage together.

    I think the adults in our lives need to be careful about encouraging young people to set goals. It's important to set them and shoot for them but too often they end up being unattainable for reasons beyond our control. There needs to be some emphasis on how to move on if you goal isn't reached. I wanted to be a teacher, I had always wanted to be a teacher. But when I graduated from college, getting my husband through grad school was the priority so I took a job at a bank instead of working on my certification work. By the time he was done, we had a son, then another, then a daughter and I never went back. I've found other ways to be a teacher -- taught mini-courses at the grade school, set up summer school programs for y kids. I also discovered that I really wouldn't like to deal with badly behaved children, ridiculous parents and really long hours. So it worked out for me.

    I thought Julian and Carter's relationship was one of the most interesting. Carter was both drawn to Julian and angry with him all of the time for the things that Julian had. I think Julian understood this and understood how conflicted Carter was about his life. This made it possible for him to forgive Carter. I think that by the time Julian found out about the infidelity, he was so unhappy in his life that it was merely the catalyst for him to leave. I wasn't surprised to see Carter come back; that relationship needed to have closure.


  3. I really enjoyed this book. I read the book in two parts (Part 1: freshman year, Part 2: post marriage and a messy complicated life) while traveling for work over two days. It was like going to a movie, experiencing the story in a small timeframe.

    I connected with how messy Julian's life turned out. I was married at 20, we finished school, settled into life together and made the decision of whose career would come first. Julian felt left behind or like he was on the sideline, watching Mia's life/career start to take off. He missed his goal of completing a novel by 25. I'm glad he was able to finish his novel in the book.

    My mom was diagnosed with cancer 5 years ago, I could relate to the sense of urgency Mia had in wanting to get married, the memories. I keep gently reminding her of milestones to keep her spirit alive. I was really able to connect to this.

  4. I have to say that I couldn't connect with this book very much. It's not that I didn't like it, but I just didn't feel like I could relate to it. I agree with Mari that it is told in two parts, and I found the first part (the college days) to be my favorite. I just couldn't put myself in Mia's place, never having dealt with breast cancer on a personal level (fortunately).

    I really enjoyed Julian's character. I could understand his hurt at learning about Mia's affair with Carter, and I am glad that they were able to come together in the end.


  5. Didn't you feel like Julian and Mia would never have ended up together if Mia's mother hadn't died? At one point the book mentions that Julian and Mia were going to take turns but it seemed to me like everything they did was driven by Mia's reactions to her mother's death.


  6. I struggled with this book in the beginning. I needed more detail to feel connected to the story and it didn't exist. But with a little helpful encouragement (thanks Mari), I got past pg. 50 and the story really began to blossom.

    I appreciated how Henkin ended in a way with Julian's voice and picked up with Mia's point of view just as she learns of her mother's cancer. My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer while I was in college, and though we were never really close (she lived in a different city while I was growing up), her illness brought her back to our hometown and we developed a really amazing relationship until she passed.

    This book really captures how marriage has this duality of difficulty and happiness. My husband and I separated for a year within the first two years of marriage. I have lived the trial that becomes - separate sleeping arrangements, suddenly having to redo life for one (bills, meals, etc.), the pain of your husband coming by to pick up the last of his belongings. So I really enjoyed it when they came back together; that comfort, realization of love/friendship you don't want to be without and sense of renewed commitment. Now that we are coming up to nine years of being together, I really can see how you have this "bad as an investment for the good".

    You know, lately I have been really struggling with whether to let go of the career goal I wanted in my 20's. I want(ed) to become a naturopathic physician - which is 4 years of med school - and reaching that goal while trying to raise 2 kids seems impossible. I've told myself, even if I'm older (40's, 50's) I could still go for it. I didn't (don't) want to be a Mom that got so caught up in my kids and family that I lost sight of what I wanted out of life, yet I feel like there must be a shift in that path I want(ed) - or there has been one - and I haven't quite come to grips with it. Whether it's a dream deferred or not is hard to tell, I had (have) so much of my identity tied to the proliferation of natural medicine. It really feels like it is what I was meant to do, it's my unique gift and could be my contribution to the world. It's hard trying to figure out how to transform it into something 'workable' with my family.

  7. It's never too late to go for it if you still have that desire to become a naturopathic physician. Your goal doesn't have to change, it has just been put on a different time table. You may choose to do something different with natural medicine and look on your child rearing days as a way to meet a lot of people to whom you can spread the word of natural medicine.


  8. I did not care for the book and had difficulty getting through it. There were definitely points that I found poignant (Mia's mom's cancer, Mia's despair at the separation from Julian, Mia's own diagnosis, Carter's divorce) but overall they didn't save the book for me. I agree with "bad as investment for the good." I think couples who can overcome the bad do come out stronger in the end. Certainly Julian and Mia experienced this. Although I really disliked Julian as a character until almost the end of the book - I guess until he and Mia reunited. He was just too weak for me. I hated how he dealth with Mia's relationship with Carter. I felt like he didn't give her any opportunity to explain or work through it, he just left her. He tried to get what he wanted out of life, but throughout the book retained that air of entitlement, that he would eventually get what he wanted just because. Not unitl he and Mia reunited, did he come into his own, as a man and as a writer. This one was a tough read for me. I love to hear what everyone else thought, though.

  9. Jennifer - that's definitely a different analysis on Julian. I thought he was a very emotional man (like in the wig store with Mia and her Mom) and it surprised me (maybe it's the men I know who aren't).

    I never got the sense of entitlement though, because they didn't live rich.

    I do agree that it was wrong how Julian just left her without really talking about it or facing it - he just ran. I did feel Julian was weak, his character went along with what everyone else wanted - he became friends with Carter at the urging of his professor, he married Mia so her mother could witness it before she died, he became a part time professor at Mia's suggestion. The only thing he wanted and fought for was his book.

    Lisa - thanks for your advice - when I first read your post, I wondered if you had ever been in the "what if" stage of life where I feel I'm at. You have a great outlook though on becoming a teacher and re-routing your goal.


  10. I didn't enjoy this book as much as I wanted to. The relationship with Julian and Carter seemed a bit superficial at best. I felt that Julian really could've been friends with anyone just because. Also the beginning relationship with Mia was ok and I think it would have been interesting to see how the relationship developed right after her mothers death. I can't really put my finger on why I didn't enjoy the book; it was well written and I got through it fairly quickly, but I don't think I really connected with any of the characters. Just my two cents.


  11. I had a hard time with the book at first too. Until I read the author Q&A I wasn't even sure I was going to comment this time. I had the same basic reaction as Paula. The book wasn't bad but I didn't connect with it either.

    I never really identified with Julian or Mia. I found myself frustrated with their inability to make decisions, or pull themselves out of their funk. I tend to be pretty strong willed and proactive so the passivity of Julian & Mia left me frustrated.

    I was glad to read from the author that he believes if Mia's mother hadn't passed away she & Julian wouldn't have gotten married. I got the same impression. They just never seemed like a good fit.

    I did identify with Julian & Mia's relationship on some levels. My husband & I met at the very beginning of our freshman year in college and have been together ever since - this makes 19 years. Being that young in such a serious relationship was hard when all our friends were single. We have been through a lot of ups & downs with times not knowing if we were going to make it. We never split up but there were times I thought we might be better off. Because of this we were together for 9 years before we got married. This year we're celebrating 10 years married so it can work but boy it was tough at times.

    I moved 3 times for his schooling & career putting mine on hold so I did understand Julian's issues following Mia. It's hard to maintain your identity when you feel like everything you do is for the other person. The big difference is that when I started feeling trapped we talked about it and made plans together to make things better.

    I would have liked to see Julian & Mia's relationship develop a deeper connection as a result of everything they had been through. I was left with the feeling that they would never really grow up.

  12. I felt like Julian and Carter had a really interesting relationship. Carter had such a love/hate relationship with money so he was drawn to Julian who had money. Julian was trying so hard to distance himself from his privilege that he was drawn to Carter who had not grown up with money but had spent time with privileged people. Julian so badly wanted to be a writer and admired Carter's skill; Carter who was so skilled, wished that he had Julian's desire for writing. In college it is so common to befriend someone that you might not otherwise befriend simply because you are looking for something to connect to when you first arrive.

  13. I had lunch with a friend last weekend and hearing that the MM's selected this as our selection prompted two of the book clubs she belongs to to read this book!

    Josh has agreed to discuss the book with their group for up to 2 hours!

    WOW - I'm impressed.