Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Story of a Marriage

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Story of a Marriage

A Novel

by Andrew Sean Greer

The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2008, 208 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2009, 208 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Lucia Silva

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book

Print Review

Conscientious Objectors during WWII

"This is a war story. It was not meant to be. It started as a love story, the story of a marriage, but the war has stuck to everywhere like shattered glass. Not an ordinary story of men in battle, but of those who did not go to war. The cowards and shirkers; those who let an error keep them from their duty, those who saw it and hid, those who stood up and refused it, even those too young to know that one day they would rise and flee their own country... The story of those men, and of a woman in a window, unable to do a thing but watch."
- The Story of a Marriage.

It would spoil the story to reveal too much about the plot of The Story of a Marriage, but the war and not going to war figure prominently throughout, in different incarnations and different wars, including a conscientious objector in WWII.

We mostly associate conscientious objectors with the Vietnam War, not so much with "The Good War". But even as America united nearly wholly with the good vs. evil characterization of WWII, there were still men whose religious and ethical beliefs prevented them from killing other human beings. Most objectors belonged to traditionally pacifist religions like the Quakers, Mennonites and Jehovah's Witnesses, but there were also Jews, Muslims, Catholics, and others, including some who objected for political and ethical reasons.

70,000 men applied for conscientious objector status during WWII, but The Selective Service Act of 1940 only allowed men to legally defer for religious reasons. A little over half of the men who applied for CO status received it. Known as conchies, they were given a choice of noncombatant service in the Armed Forces, as unarmed medics or chaplains, or they could enlist in alternative service, as road-builders, fire-fighters, attendants in mental institutions, subjects in medical experiments, or working in Civilian Public Service (CPS) camps. The CPS camps were formed in an unusual collaboration between the traditional peace churches (Quakers, Bretheren, Mennonites) and the US government, providing the first legal alternative service to combat for COs. Many men worked in the camps for the duration of the war, working 9-hour days, six days a week, of hard labor, for which they were not paid. In fact, they were expected to pay the government for their room and board, but church communities paid the fees for most of their COs who could not afford to. Many families of COs were left in dire poverty, shunned by their communities and extended families.

While the government viewed the camps as a way to keep the COs out of sight, the peace churches initially envisioned them as utopian pacifist communities. When much of the labor turned into pointless busywork, some COs chose to leave the camps in protest and join the 6000 COs who were imprisoned in jails. During WWII one of every six men in US prisons was a draft resister who had not received legal CO status or who refused to engage as noncombatants in the armed forces or work in the CPS camps. Still, many remained in the camps, and fostered emerging ideas about nonviolent protest, some becoming leaders in the civil rights and social justice movements in the decades to come.

"We had Ph.Ds, we had winners of Fulbright prizes, we had guys who had a third-grade education, we had stockbrokers, we had ballet dancers, we had atheists, we had fundamentalists...every possible kind of human being was there....And that made it a fascinating place to be." - Steve Cary, WWII CO

Interesting Link: A PBS sub-site about conscientious objectors during WWII, including a brief history of conscientious objection in the USA, which traces all the way back to the Founding Fathers themselves, such as Quaker pacifist William Penn.

Article by Lucia Silva

This article was originally published in June 2008, and has been updated for the March 2009 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: All Our Wrong Todays
    All Our Wrong Todays
    by Elan Mastai
    You need a great deal of time to read All Our Wrong Todays, but don't let that put you off. ...
  • Book Jacket: Dadland
    Dadland
    by Keggie Carew
    In her notable debut, Keggie Carew examines the life of her father Tom, a decorated war hero whose ...
  • Book Jacket: Piecing Me Together
    Piecing Me Together
    by Renee Watson
    Race and class in American culture certainly dominate the news right now. These two things seem to ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Atomic Weight of Love
by Elizabeth J. Church

In the spirit of The Aviator's Wife, this resonant debut spans from World War II through the Vietnam War.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Our Short History
    by Lauren Grodstein

    Lauren Grodstein breaks your heart, then miraculously pieces it back together so it's stronger, than before.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Mercies in Disguise
    by Gina Kolata

    A story of hope, a family's genetic destiny, and the science that rescued them.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

O My D B

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -