cover image I Married You for Happiness

I Married You for Happiness

Lily Tuck. Atlantic Monthly, $24 (208p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1991-9

A breathlessly mannered, affecting new work by National Book Award%E2%80%93winner Tuck (The News from Paraguay) tracks a Boston wife's random, reflective chain of thoughts as she sits at her dead husband's bedside. Philip, a senior mathematician at an MIT-sounding institution in Cambridge, Mass., goes into cardiac arrest as he naps before dinner. Nina, a painter, and his wife of 42 years, decides to spend the night alone with Philip's body in their Boston bedroom, drinking wine, and remembering. The couple met in the early 1960s in Paris; she worked at an art gallery and read Natalie Saurraute; he was a student, steeped in numbers, probability theory, and the uselessness of reason in trying to prove infinity, or that God exists%E2%80%94%C3%A0 la Pascal. Layered memories, somewhat pell-mell, build suspense: from Philip's honeymoon confession (never mentioned again) of the consequences of a drunk-driving accident in his youth, to Nina's secret abortion, the father indeterminate; and their only child, Louise, now in her 30s, harbors a troubling hostility toward her mother. In the end, the love Nina and Philip have for each other is unproven and unpredictable, except in these small, vital snapshots that make up two lives closely shared, and beautifully portrayed in this triumph of a novel. (Sept.)