I Married You For Happiness by Lily Tuck
Published by Atlantic Monthly Press, ISBN 978-082119919
Lily Tuck's I Married You For Happiness is a quiet, lovely look at the marriage of Nina and Phillip after Phillip dies unexpectedly. The writing is sparse, beautiful, sad and packs such a punch. The hardest parts to read are when Nina puts her hand in her husband's coat pocket after he dies and pulls out bills, a to-do list, tickets- all the stuff that accumulates with life, and when Nina realizes the little things that will change. Who will open her jewelry safe? Now she can throw away the rowing machine in the basement. No one will care if she brings the bottle of wine in the bedroom. Those little things just pierced my heart.
It is written in Nina's stream of consciousness, her memories coming out in dribs and drabs. The day their daughter was born and Phillip was stranded in Miami and missed the birth. Secrets about an expensive purse purchased, infidelity, an abortion, that he will now never know. She'll never know the entire truth about the girl killed in Phillip's car when he was in college.
Phillip was a mathematician and Nina an aspiring artist, two people who come from different mindsets, yet they made a life together in spite of their differences. They met in Paris and vacationed in France every year. You will get more from this novel if you read French, as both characters speak it occasionally. Phillip references mathematical theories that would more interesting to me if I understood them, but Nina doesn't either.
I think that anyone who has been married for many years will read this remembrance of a marriage and recognize themselves in Nina and Phillip. And one line that keeps coming back to me is "time is what prevents everything from happening at once."
Although this is a slim book, it will stay with me for a long while.
This is the second book I have read recently from Atlantic Monthly Press, the first being Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante, and I think that I will definitely have to look deeper at their catalog; they have great literary fiction that require the reader to think.