Excerpt from Matrimony by Joshua Henkin, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Matrimony

A Novel

by Joshua Henkin

Matrimony
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2007, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2008, 304 pages

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Excerpt

Julian saw her again, this time in the laundry room. He hoped she didn't notice that next to him, clearly in his possession, was a package of fabric softener. He had a book of stories by Ernest Hemingway, and he placed the book on top of the fabric softener, to balance the picture out.

Mia from Montreal sorted her clothes at her feet. There was a colors pile and a whites pile, and Julian thrust his face into his book so she wouldn't think he was staring at her laundry. Periodically, though, he glanced at Mia herself, who was even more beautiful than he remembered. She was wearing blue jeans and a gray V-neck T-shirt, and her hair was up in a bun.


Julian saw her again, this time in the laundry room. He hoped she didn't notice that next to him, clearly in his possession, was a package of fabric softener. He had a book of stories by Ernest Hemingway, and he placed the book on top of the fabric softener, to balance the picture out.

Mia from Montreal sorted her clothes at her feet. There was a colors pile and a whites pile, and Julian thrust his face into his book so she wouldn't think he was staring at her laundry.

Periodically, though, he glanced at Mia herself, who was even more beautiful than he remembered. She was wearing blue jeans and a gray V-neck T-shirt, and her hair was up in a bun.

"I think you know my friend Carter," he said.

Mia nodded. "Carter's great."

"The very best," Julian said. Then, wanting to make sure Mia didn't take this literally--he, Julian, after all, was the very best--he mentioned Carter's girlfriend, Pilar.

A black bra strap stuck out from under Mia's T-shirt, and she fingered it idly, then brushed a wisp of hair from in front of her face.

"I saw you at this party," Julian said. "You were dancing the rumba."

Mia laughed. "I used to dance in high school."

"The rumba?"

"Sure."

"Are you Cuban?" "Jewish."

"You can't be both?"

"I guess you can." Mia peered through the window at her rotating clothes, giving the washer a baleful look as if her laundry disappointed her. "I was even religious briefly."

"Really?"

"An Orthodox Jew, if you can imagine that." Mia grabbed hold of a T-shirt and held it up to him, showing him the nametape sewn into the collar. "There I am," she said. "Mia Mendelsohn."

"Are you related to Felix Mendelssohn?" Julian asked.

Mia laughed. "I can't even keep a tune. In Hebrew school, I had to sing in the Passover pageant and the teacher told me just to mouth the words."

"The Passover pageant?"

"It's like the Christmas pageant, but with the Ten Plagues. I was a locust."

"A singing locust," Julian said.

"A lip-synching locust," said Mia. She had forgotten almost all her Hebrew, she told Julian. When she was small, her mother used to clean out her ears with a washcloth and tell her what she found inside. French toast. Marmalade. Cauliflower. Roast beef. That was where her Hebrew was, beneath the archaeological layers of her. "In Hebrew my name means 'Who is God'? So I guess that makes me a born agnostic."

"You know what my name means in Welsh?"

"What?"

"'He travels heavily amongst the goats.'"

"It does not!"

"I come from a family of Welsh goat herders."

"You do?"

"If you go back far enough." Julian's great-grandfather had been born in Wales, but Julian himself had never been to Wales and his experience with goats was limited to a visit to the Bronx Children's Zoo, where he'd grabbed the billygoat's leg and refused to release it. "My parents were born here. So were my grandparents. My father's just a regular American money launderer."

Excerpted from Matrimony by Joshua Henkin. Copyright © 2007 by Joshua Henkin.

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