I Married You for Happiness
Her husband's hand is losing warmth, but Nina continues to hold it. She tells him she loves him, although he can no longer hear her voice. Through the long night, she holds a vigil over Philip. She knows she must call the authorities and arrange a funeral. She must call their daughter, Louise, and inform her that her father is gone. But she will have time in the morning to perform these duties. Tonight, she wants only to be alone with her husband. The night belongs to Nina and Philip, and the memories that have combined to form the past of their long marriage.
"I MARRIED YOU FOR HAPPINESS is an exquisite read...Lily Tuck pulls us deep into Nina's skin and into her marriage. We are there, sitting beside her beloved husband, as the memories of their life together surge forward and recede, forming a powerful mosaic."
Nina struggles to remember exactly what happened, what was said, just this evening. When Philip arrived home, she was roasting a chicken. He said something about being tired and wanting to lay down before supper. Nina was distracted by the spinning of lettuce and the boiling of potatoes. She called up to Philip, telling him their meal was ready. She couldn't pull the cork from the bottle of red wine, but knew he would retrieve it. She called again and then walked into their bedroom, but before she entered, she had a premonition. Now she wonders: What was he thinking about when his heart beat its last pulse? Was he thinking about her? Or about dinner? Could he have been contemplating a mathematical theory, such as one regarding infinities?
Philip was a mathematics professor. During this night of memories, Nina imagines him relating events in their marriage (such as her one episode of infidelity) to his class, using them as examples of mathematical principles. While Nina believes in randomness and is frightened of infinity, Philip often attempts to explain away her beliefs: "Infinity, he says, is absurd."
Nina remembers meeting Philip for the first time. They are young. Nina sits at a table in a café in Paris. She is an artist, a painter, working in an art gallery and living in a tiny apartment. She reads a book in French and believes she looks chicly French in a second-hand man's leather jacket. Philip claims to be distantly related to the book’s author; Nina takes that comment for an empty line, but it all begins then --- the years ahead of them, the daughter they will have, the lovely memories and also the hard ones, ambiguous events that may or may not have happened, as well as the ones she can remember with certainty.
Nina's therapist once told her that the present can't be changed, but one can alter the past. Which of her myriad of marriage memories will she reinvent? She's inspired to revise a story of Philip's, one that has always nibbled away at her deepest self. In truth, she believes she doesn't even know the facts of that original tale. It seems that a young woman named Iris died in a car accident; Philip was driving her home after a party in a sudden rainstorm. Over the years, Nina has asked questions about Iris. She knows the girl was just 18, slender and blonde. Yet Nina still has more questions than answers: Does Philip think of Iris? Does he imagine that his life would have been better if he could have married Iris instead of her? Iris has the advantage of always being young and smooth-skinned, unlike Nina, whose face is now crinkled and hair has grown gray. But the mystery of Iris is just one of the many nebulous tangents that Nina will contemplate on this long, dark night as she says farewell to Philip.
I MARRIED YOU FOR HAPPINESS is an exquisite read. Author Lily Tuck pulls us deep into Nina's skin and into her marriage. We are there, sitting beside her beloved husband, as the memories of their life together surge forward and recede, forming a powerful mosaic. This is a book to be savored, not gulped down. The final scene is thought-provoking and startling; I predict readers will either love it or hate it --- but I doubt they will ever forget it.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on September 29, 2011
I Married You for Happiness
- Publication Date: September 11, 2012
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Grove Press
- ISBN-10: 0802145914
- ISBN-13: 9780802145918