An excerpt from The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer

S. Epatha Merkerson reads an excerpt from Andrew Sean Greer's third novel, The Story of a Marriage, published in May by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.


We think we know the ones we love.

Our husbands, our wives. We know them—we are them, sometimes; when separated at a party we find ourselves voicing their opinions, their taste in food or books, telling an anecdote that never happened to us but happened to them. We watch their tics of conversation, of driving and dressing, how they touch a sugar cube to their coffee and stare as it turns white to brown, then drop it, satisfied, into the cup. I watched my own husband do that every morning; I was a vigilant wife.

We think we know them. We think we love them. But what we love turns out to be a poor translation, a translation we ourselves have made, from a language we barely know. We try to get past it to the original, but we never can. We have seen it all. But what have we really understood?

One morning we awaken. Beside us, that familiar sleeping body in the bed: a new kind of stranger. For me, it came in 1953. That was when I stood in my house and saw a creature merely bewitched with my husband’s face.

Perhaps you cannot see a marriage. Like those giant heavenly bodies invisible to the human eye, it can only be charted by its gravity, its pull on everything around it. That is how I think of it. That I must look at everything around it, all the hidden stories, the unseen parts, so that somewhere in the middle—turning like a dark star—it will reveal itself at last.


The story of how I met my husband; even that’s not simple. We met twice: once in our Kentucky hometown, and once on a beach in San Francisco. It was a joke for our whole marriage, that we were strangers twice.

I was a teenager when I fell in love with Holland Cook. We grew up in the same farming community, where there were plenty of boys to love—at that age I was like those Amazonian frogs, bright green, oozing emotion from every pore—but I caught no one’s eye. Other girls had boys falling over them, and although I did my hair just like them and ripped the trim off attic dresses and sewed it on my hems, it did no good. My skin began to feel like clothing I had outgrown; I saw myself as tall and gawky; and as no one ever told me I was beautiful—neither my mother nor my disapproving father—I decided that I must be plain.

Excerpted from The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer. Copyright © 2008 by Andrew Sean Greer. Published in April 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.


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Page One: Where New and Noteworthy Books Begin


In our free speech they say / There is protest." The Importance of Peeling Potatoes in Ukraine (Penguin, April 2008) by Mark Yakich. Second book, poetry collection. Agent: None. Editor: Paul Slovak. Publicist: Tina Coviello.

"On the surface, it's relaxed." Personal Days (Random House, May 2008) by Ed Park. First book, novel. Agent: PJ Mark. Editor: Julia Cheiffetz. Publicist: Jynne Martin.

"They went on anyway, putting one foot in front of the other, holding their carbines barrel down to keep the water out, trying, in their misery and confusion—and their exhaustion—to remain watchful." Peace (Knopf, April 2008) by Richard Bausch. Eighteenth book, eleventh novel. Agent: Henry Dunow. Editor: Jordan Pavlin. Publicist: Michelle Somers.

"While leaves are popping bullets of air, / they are saying something— / a flux of otherness, / a pulse of organic sex." What Love Comes To: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, April 2008) by Ruth Stone. Thirteenth book, poetry collection. Agent: None. Editor: Michael Wiegers. Publicist: Denise Banker.

"One dude stood all afternoon at the buffet wearing just his boxers, licking the orange dust off barbecued potato chips." Snuff (Doubleday, May 2008) by Chuck Palahniuk. Eleventh book, ninth novel. Agent: Edward Hibbert. Editor: Gerry Howard. Publicist: Todd Doughty.

"I was stopped at a red light the other day when I saw my son coming out of a movie theater." The Film Club (Twelve, May 2008) by David Gilmour. Seventh book, first memoir. Agent: Sam Hiyate. Editor: Jonathan Karp. Publicist: Cary Goldstein.

"He was five feet one inch tall in street shoes, bearlike in his round and jowly face, hulking in his chest and shoulders, nearly just as stout around the middle, but hollow in the hips, and lacking a proper can to sit on (though he was hardly ever known to sit), and wee at the ankles, and girlish at his tiny feet, a man in the shape of a lightbulb." The End (Graywolf Press, May 2008) by Salvatore Scibona. First book, novel. Agent: Bill Clegg. Editor: Fiona McCrae. Publicist: Mary Matze.

"The bedeviling notion that his new roommates would be in any position to mock him was instantly dispelled when Matt pushed open the door of Room 403." The Answer Is Always Yes (Dial Press, May 2008) by Monica Ferrell. Second book, first novel. Agent: Amanda Urban. Editor: Susan Kamil. Publicists: Katie Rudkin and Theresa Zoro.

"I will be assembled out of / noisy ecru tissue paper / printed with navy blue directions." Quaker Guns (Wave Books, April 2008) by Caroline Knox. Sixth book, poetry collection. Agent: None. Editor: Matthew Zapruder. Publicist: Monica Fambrough.

"We think we know the ones we love." The Story of a Marriage (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, May 2008) by Andrew Sean Greer. Fourth book, third novel. Agent: Lynn Nesbit. Editor: Frances Coady. Publicist: Sarita Varma.

"It was early on a Saturday morning." Girl Factory (Tin House Books, May 2008) by Jim Krusoe. Eighth book, second novel. Agent: Jin Auh. Editor: Lee Montgomery. Publicist: Deborah Jayne.

"Because the kings of France loved Tivoli / these windows bearing oranges / globed, / glowed, and that's how night becomes day without taking your eyes off their palaces in winter." Ours (University of California Press, April 2008) by Cole Swensen. Twelfth book, poetry collection. Agent: None. Editor: Rachel Berchten. Publicist: Lorraine Weston.