I Married You for Happiness

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Overview

Slender, potent, and utterly engaging, I Married You For Happiness combines marriage, mathematics, and the probability of an afterlife to create Lily Tuck's most affecting and riveting book yet.

“His hand is growing cold, still she holds it” is how this novel that tells the story of a marriage begins. The tale unfolds over a single night as Nina sits at the bedside of her husband, Philip, whose sudden and unexpected death is the reason for her lonely vigil. Still too shocked to grieve, she lets herself remember ...

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I Married You for Happiness

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Overview

Slender, potent, and utterly engaging, I Married You For Happiness combines marriage, mathematics, and the probability of an afterlife to create Lily Tuck's most affecting and riveting book yet.

“His hand is growing cold, still she holds it” is how this novel that tells the story of a marriage begins. The tale unfolds over a single night as Nina sits at the bedside of her husband, Philip, whose sudden and unexpected death is the reason for her lonely vigil. Still too shocked to grieve, she lets herself remember the defining moments of their long union, beginning with their meeting in Paris. She is an artist, he a highly accomplished mathematician: a collision of two different worlds that merged to form an intricate and passionate love. As we move through select memories—real and imagined—Tuck reveals the most private intimacies, dark secrets, and overwhelming joys that defined Nina and Philip's life together.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Tuck opens her fifth novel (and her first since National Book Award winner The News from Paraguay) with the sudden death of the main character, mathematician and professor Philip. His wife, Nina, spends the night reminiscing in brief episodic flashbacks that meander through their decades together from their meeting in Paris and the birth of daughter Louise to Philip's various academic appointments and travels. Snippets from Philip's mathematics lectures and Nina's artistic sensibilities expose a passionate and complicated union. Tuck's spare prose accelerates as Nina reaches morning, and we are left with a full and satisfying portrayal of a marriage and, perhaps, the discovery of the more poetic side of higher mathematics. VERDICT Fans of literary fiction should appreciate this one. Recommended to those who favor domestic fiction or a focus on personal relationships. Great fodder for readers who enjoy pondering life's larger questions.—Jenn B. Stidham, Houston Community Coll. Northeast, TX
Kirkus Reviews

Using shards of memory, Tuck creates the portrait of a marriage in her latest, following the NBA winnerThe News from Paraguay(2004, etc.).

Nina and Philip have been married for 42 years. He's a university mathematician, she's an artist. His death is as quiet as the fall of a leaf. He returns to their Massachusetts home to rest before dinner. Nina finds him dead. Cardiac arrest, says her neighbor, an endocrinologist. Here Tuck suspends time, allowing Nina, during the night ahead, to sift through the memories and images from their life together. Tuck uses a loose variation of a binary, Hegelian model. On the one hand are the mathematical formulations spelled out by Philip in the lecture hall and over the dinner table; he's a popular, witty teacher. Numbers represent logic and order; they are beyond time. In opposition are Nina's memories, their wild disorder at the mercy of time. These are "the manifestations of the inner self," Nina's reference to a Nathalie Sarraute novel she's reading when Philip hits on her at a café in Paris, their first meeting. It is daring of Tuck to set their courtship in Paris, such well-trodden ground for young lovers. The result is a somewhat synthetic charm. What's real, shockingly so, is Nina's rape by Philip's French cousin in a forest outside the city. Nina never told Philip about the rape or its consequence, a risky back-alley abortion; another secret was her one infidelity, a summer fling with a yachtsman in Brittany. Was Philip faithful to her? Nina doesn't know, but she has a jealous temperament, an irritant among her many happy memories of lovemaking, meals and shared laughter. Another possible irritant, the contrast between Philip's successful career and Nina's failure to make it commercially, goes unaddressed, a disconcerting omission masked by exotic vacation travel writing.

Does the couple's mutual happiness provide a Hegelian synthesis? Not quite, though Tuck's crisp writing is a joy.

Marie Arana
…strangely captivating…as Nina contemplates her dead husband's math lectures…the story becomes steadily more absorbing, and the sum of the novel's parts is well worth the effort.
—The Washington Post
Washington Post
“Strangely captivating. . . . It will make you chafe. It will strike a chord.”
Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802119919
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/6/2011
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.62 (w) x 8.58 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Lily Tuck

Born in Paris, Lily Tuck is the author of four previous novels: Interviewing Matisse or the Woman Who Died Standing Up, The Woman Who Walked on Water, Siam, or the Woman Who Shot a Man, which was nominated for the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, and The News From Paraguay, winner of the National Book Award. She is also the author of the biography, Woman of Rome, A Life of Elsa Morante. Her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, and are collected in Limbo, or Other Places I Have Lived. She divides her time between Maine and New York City.

Biography

Born in Paris, Lily Tuck is the author of three previous novels: Interviewing Matisse or the Woman Who Died Standing Up, The Woman Who Walked on Water, and Siam, or the Woman Who Shot a Man, which was nominated for the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, and are collected in Limbo, or Other Places I Have Lived. She divides her time between Maine and New York City.

Author biography courtesy of HarperCollins.

Good To Know

Some outtakes from our interview with Tuck:

"English is actually my third language. I was born in France and thus first spoke French, next I lived in South America and learned Spanish. I came to the United States when I was ten years old and I claim (probably not quite true) that I did not open my mouth once in school for the whole of the first year -- or until I could speak English without an accent -- as I did not want my classmates to tease or make fun of me."

"I spend most summers in a house on a beautiful little island in Maine where I have to go everywhere by boat, to the store or to the post office, and although some days can be very solitary, I like the challenge and the self-sufficiency island life requires."

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 10, 1939
    2. Place of Birth:
      Paris, France
    1. Education:
      B.A., Radcliffe (Harvard); M.A., Sorbonne, Paris

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2012

    recommended

    my book club thought this very good.
    The NOOK edition had MANY TYPOS/GARBLED TEXT which were extremely distracting.

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