The Story of a Marriage

By Andrew Sean Greer; S. Epatha Merkerson (Read by)
(Macmillan Audio, Compact Disc, 9781427204622)

Publication Date: April 29, 2008

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback, Hardcover, Paperback, Hardcover

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Selected by Indie Booksellers for the Spring/Summer '09 Reading Group List
“In a daring story of three unpredictable characters navigating the treacherous waters of class and race, of forbidden love, and of patriotism in the years right after WWII, Andrew Sean Greer renders an imaginative, moving, and wholly satisfying tribute to the real complexities of the human heart.”
-- Marie du Vaure, Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, CA
Selected by Indie Booksellers for the Fall '09/Winter '10 Reading Group List
Selected by Indie Booksellers for the Indie Next List Highlights 2008
“This sensitive novel about a love triangle in 1950s San Francisco is a wonderful stew of race, sexual identity, family, and war. Greer's lush prose is laden with gems, and the plot's twists and turns fairly take your breath away.”
-- Matthew Lage, Iowa Book L.L.C., Iowa City, IA


"We think we know the ones we love.” So Pearlie Cook begins her
indirect and devastating exploration of the mystery at the heart of every relationship: how we can ever truly know another person.
It is 1953 and Pearlie, a dutiful young housewife, finds herself living in the Sunset District in San Francisco, caring not only for her husband’s fragile health but also for her son, who is afflicted with polio. Then, one Saturday morning, a stranger appears on her doorstep, and everything changes. All the certainties by which Pearlie has lived and tried to protect her family are thrown into doubt. Does she know her husband at all? And what does the stranger want in return for his offer of a hundred thousand dollars? For six months in 1953 young Pearlie Cook struggles to understand the world around her, and most especially her husband, Holland.
Pearlie’s story is a meditation not only on love but also on the effects of war, with one war recently over and another coming to a close. Set in a climate of fear and repression–political, sexual, and racial–The Story of a Marriage portrays three people trapped by the confines of their era, and the desperate measures they are prepared to take to escape it. Lyrical and surprising, The Story of a Marriage looks back at a period that we tend to misremember as one of innocence and simplicity.

About the Author

Andrew Sean Greer is the bestselling author of The Confessions of Max Tivoli, the story collection How it Was for Me, and the novel, The Path of Minor Planets. He lives in San Francisco, California.

Conversation Starters from


  1. How does your view of Pearlie and Holland change in the first course of reading Part I? What were your assumptions about them on a first reading and how did they alter?  

Praise For The Story of a Marriage

“Merkerson’s nuance and projection inject character elements in Pearlie that while not present in the beginning of the novel come to fruition later on, thus performing the intriguing feat of vocal foreshadowing.”--Publishers Weekly, Starred Review 


"... [a] convincing performance. [Merkerson] conveys the subtle strength that emerges in Pearlie's voice as the story reveals how she matures and triumphs over unexpected challenges."--AudioFile, Winner of Earphones Award


" drawn in by S. Epatha Merkerson’s extraordinary, finely nuanced performance, to find out, as Pearlie ultimately does, who Holland really is, where his passions lie and how the story of this marriage played out."--BookPage, Sukey's Favorite


“Andrew Sean Greer is a devastating new writer”--Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours
“[Greer] has an eerie maturity not often found in young novelists. His prose, incantatory but not overheated, idles along with a top-hatted, almost courtly elegance.” --David Kipen, The San Francisco Chronicle
 "Try Andrew Sean Greer's The Story of a Marriage for a compelling and unexpected story of a highly unusual marital dilemma in early 1950s San Francisco...It is Merkerson's deep and rich vioce that gives true voice to Pearlie Cook and the agonizing choice she must face about giving up or fighting for her husband.  Greer's writing is sensitive without ever descending to sentiment, and literary without any condescension to his characters or his storytelling." - Winston-Salem Journal

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