cover image Woman Who Walked on Water

Woman Who Walked on Water

Lily Tuck. Riverhead Books, $21 (241pp) ISBN 978-1-57322-021-7

Again Tuck (Interviewing Matisse: or The Woman Who Died Standing Up) has taken stylistic risks and emerged triumphant. Her stark prose and allegory-inside-allegory narrative tug the reader, like an ancient Eastern conundrum, toward a ``realization which is beyond understanding.'' Adele is a Connecticut woman of style, spoiled and lucky, solipsistic in her youth, superstitious now. When she visits Chartres with her husband Howard and two children on the day of the airing of the sacra camisa, she meets an Indian guru, whom she thereafter refers to as ``Him,'' in the cathedral. That very day, Adele follows Him to Bombay, where she must learn to do nothing, forget everything. Her chameleon-like mentor gives her a room in His family-filled house but makes no promises, and as Adele lists sins and sheds habits and treasured objects, she moves toward an ascetic purity. He tells her she can't go back to her old life. Yet Adele does go back-to the beach resort her family has always frequented. An accomplished swimmer whose physicality often is part of her spirituality, Adele takes daring marathon swims far out in the Caribbean. The narrator, who has watched from the safety of the shore, is there on the day she doesn't return. Her husband is a material man who now grapples with his loss through incomprehensible dreams; the narrator, once an unheard listener, becomes the voice of enlightenment. This deftly and deceptively simple book is wondrously deep. (Mar.)