About caroltracycarr

Teacher, Writer, Attorney, School Board Member, Grandmother, Musician, Kayaker

Review of The Marriage Plot

 “Less Than Likable Characters”

Three characters dominate this story, and they are exquisitely developed through the course of a couple of years by the brilliant writing of Eugenides. Each is flawed or challenged, some more so than others, and each spends the novel’s time overcoming those challenges or learning to live with those flaws. That said, I kept waiting and hoping at some point any of these characters might become truly likable. It never happened.
There are many literary references throughout this book that would probably add another dimension if you researched them all further. But the basic story line of “the marriage plot” is one that has been told many times over. This was a new opportunity to breathe some life into it, writing about it from a more contemporary perspective. However, Madeleine never really springs to life. The men still seem to be living far more interested lives, and she’s reacting to them more than creating her own. Perhaps the point of the story might have come off better written by a woman?
The narration was excellent, and the narrator created with skill a believable woman in Madeleine and the critical differences between Leonard and Mitchell.
I chose this book because I’ve read Middlesex and was impressed with what Eugenides could do with such a unique and challenging topic as hermaphroditism. In this book, he’s tackled a more universal problem, taken fewer words to accomplish his goal, and made a good attempt to turn out an excellent novel. I simply wish that by the end I had cared more about what happened to the characters.

Killer Knife

It was the simplest and most sincere of gifts, straight from the heart and addressing a real need.

We were just about to drive away from our daughter’s home after spending two weeks together biking and camping along the Pacific Coast Highway. She knew our RV kitchen gear intimately, as we’d worked together to churn out one gourmet end-of-day feast after another with minimal equipment.

“Wait a minute, guys. I’ve got something for you,” she said and dashed back into her home. Minutes later she returned with something orange, small and VERY sharp.

A Kuhn-Rikon paring knife is a thing of beauty. It comes in 14 colors outfitted with a protective sheath. It is NOT a “scrape-towards-your-thumb” utensil, used akin to the classic potato peeler. To do so is to risk scraping the skin, if not the muscle, from your thumb and wearing a bandage for days. But it can slice paper-thin with great delicacy and just as efficiently cut through a thick, less-than-tender piece of beef. It nips the leaves and pulp out of strawberries with no waste of fruit, and stands up to more robust tasks of cutting through the tough outer shell of a squash or watermelon. I bet it could handle leather. I once bought a knife (one of those checkout counter bargains) that looked like a small machete and advertised it was capable of taking down small trees.If I were lost in a jungle, I’d rather have my Kuhn-Rikon.

It’s our knife of choice for cheese, for chopping vegetables, slicing bread, and dissecting the rare piece of meat that crosses our plates. I have a complete set of carving knives outfitting our RV that we barely touch since K-R climbed on board. Neither my husband or I have risked bringing it into our home, as much as we’d like to. Few things left behind would necessitate turning around, but our Kuhn-Rikon is definitely one. We’ll buy one for the house as soon as we can agree on the next color.

Three GPS Family

Okay, so we forgot a few things. Water bottles, munchies, and most of the elegant paraphernalia we’ve collected for powering our electronics abroad. This time we did remember cheese, nail polish remover and sunscreen. Life is always a compromise.

Once we took off on a trip without any printed maps. Not a problem, we thought. With our trusted GPS in charge of navigation, who needed a map? That was the trip when it sent us over a bridge that didn’t exist to a campground located in the middle of a river. Even when we pulled into the campground after crossing on a bridge a couple of miles downriver, (never identified on the GPS,) it insisted we make a U-turn and keep searching.

We should have suspected its potential for delusion. It was the same GPS that refused to acknowledge a road near our home that shaved off a good five minutes reaching our nearest interstate, and we had to regularly ignore it. Then one day it suddenly became enlightened with reality. We were never certain if there was built-in artificial intelligence that kicked in or we had just proven a greater capacity for stubbornness.

That said, I’ve come to rely on my GPS, despite it’s whimsical approach to navigation. I became a convert the day I was hopelessly lost, wandering the back roads of New Hampshire trying to find my way back to Massachusetts. Most of these roads are a network built from colonial era cow paths that resemble the web-work of a drunken spider, and I discovered one must think like a cow for them to make any sense. When I began to chart my course by the setting of the sun, I concluded even an errant GPS was fitter than I for finding my way home.

Our total conversion was evident the day we took off on a cross-country venture equipped with not one, but all three of our GPS’s, lined up on our dashboard like intrepid scouts. That continues to be our modus operandi on this trip as well. My husband’s two are dedicated to serious navigation, and I stay out of their way, except when called on to referee when they disagree (the GPS’s or my husband and one or both of them.) Mine is dedicated to finding Starbucks when I need a latte fix, or the grocery or drugstore we inevitably require. More often than not, mine disagrees with its colleagues, but I’ve learned to ignore them. As far as I’m concerned, any GPS that’s guiding me to a Starbucks is on the one, true path.

Summer Meanderings

Florida has somehow been a destination that, for the past few years, has been in the category of “We’ve got to get down there to visit friends.” Too many times our travels have been preempted elsewhere out of necessity. At last we’ll be heading down there, tracking down relatives, friends, and checking out a few highpoints along the way. A first stop for us will be Naples, the farthest south I’ve been on the West Coast of Florida.

Then we’ll head north again to stop in Athens GA to see the Habitat for Humanity site there. Moving onto Columbus, GA, we’ll view what’s in bloom at Calloway Gardens.

Calloway Gardens

 

The other item on my summer agenda is Philadephia. It’s a city I saw as a child and very briefly as an adult back in the 80’s. I’ll be joining my sister there in a posh hotel room where she’s attending a professional meeting, and will have free rein to explore the city, and likely walk and walk and walk. There are a few friends there I also hope to touch in with. A great way to celebrate my birthday week.

Welcome aboard

From the moment I could walk, I was traveling, and as soon as I learned to write, I began to record my comings and goings. So it’s only natural that my travels have also become an integral part of of my work as a writer. I’m keeping this blog to reflect my past and future travels (exciting things are always ahead!) and to share how they’ve worked their way into my various works of fiction and non-fiction. You’re welcome to come along on this trip. Fasten your seatbelts.