Daily Archives: August 13, 2011

What is Happiness? A Review of Lily Tuck’s I Married for Happiness

I Married You for Happiness* is a beautiful love story.  It is not a
romance novel in the style of Erich Segal’s Love Story, or a charming
story of boy meets girl and they live happily ever after.  Lily Tuck’s novel goes much deeper.  It must be read slowly, word for word.  The reader must allow himself or herself tobecome emotionally involved, to identify with Nina, the main character.

I love theway the novel opens.  Nina is sitting beside her husband, Philip, who died only a short time before.  She is not weeping and wailing, or overcome
with grief.  She is holding Philip’s hand as it gradually grows colder.  She tells
him, “I love you.  I always will.  Je t’aime.” She bends over and places her cheek against his.

As the night progresses, Nina remembers her life with Philip in a string of memories that pass through her mind.  They come and go without any chronological sequence.  At first, I found this “stream of consciousness” difficult to follow, but as I kept turning the pages, I found it to be essential to the story.  I know from my own experience, that when a loved one dies, a lifetime of memories of the deceased, especially moments spent together, randomly pass through one’s mind.  Those special moments are experienced
again.  Even the emotions, and perhaps particularly the emotions, attached to those memories are relived.

We come to know both Nina and Philip through Nina’s memories.  We discover that each kept secrets from the other.  Both were involved in
extramarital affairs.  Nina was raped by a mutual friend of theirs and subsequently had a “back alley” abortion without informing Philip of either.  We cannot avoid feeling irritated with Philip, as is Nina, a mathematician who cannot resist displaying his brilliance at every opportunity.

Despite all the petty irritations that would destroy most marriages, Nina’s love for Philip, and we assume his love for her, continues to grow and deepen.  At one point during the night, Nina recalls that they were married forty-six years and six months.  She wonders how many days and how many hours?  She tries to recall how many countries and how many different homes they lived in, and even how many pets they owned.  These are rather mundane things, but they are the sort of mundane experiences upon which a truly meaning relationship between two people is built.

The beginning and body of the novel are very good, but I love the ending.  However that must be left for each reader to discover.

An award winning author, Lily Tuck has written four previous novels.  She received the National Book Award for The News from Paraguay (2005).  I
Married You for Happiness
is the first of her novels that I have read.  Perhaps I will read another.

*Lily Tuck.  I Married You for Happiness.  New York:  Atlantic Monthly Press, 2011.

Until next time, be good to all God’s creation, and always live under the mercy.