Summary and book reviews of I Married You for Happiness by Lily Tuck

I Married You for Happiness

By Lily Tuck

I Married You for Happiness
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2011,
    208 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2012,
    224 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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Book Summary

Throughout Lily Tuck's career, she's been praised by critics for her crisp, lean language and sensuous explorations of exotic locales and complex psychologies. From Siam to Paraguay and beyond, Tuck inspires readers to travel into unfamiliar realms, and her newest novel is no exception. Slender, potent, and utterly engaging, I Married You For Happiness combines marriage, mathematics, and the probability of an afterlife to create 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.

We never keep to the present. We recall the past; we anticipate the future as if we found it too slow in coming and were trying to hurry it up, or we recall the past as if to stay its too rapid flight. We are so unwise that we wander about in times that do not belong to us, and do not think of the only one that does; so vain that we dream of times that are not and blindly flee the only one that is. The fact is that the present usually hurts.
- Blaise Pascal, Pensées (#47)

There is nothing more terrorising than the possibility that nothing is hidden. There's nothing more scandalous than a happy marriage.
- Adam Phillips, Monogamy

His hand is growing cold; still she holds it. Sitting at his bedside, she does not cry. From time to time, she lays her cheek against his, taking slight comfort in the rough bristle of unshaved hair, and she speaks to him a little.

I love you, she tells him.

I always will.

Je t'aime, she says.

Rain is predicted for ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. In the opening pages, we meet a widow who is stunned to lose the husband she was devoted to and depended on. What happens in the narrative to modify this first impression? Also, discuss how Nina grieves: "With her free hand, she touches her face to make sure" (p. 4); "Again she thinks about those dark-skinned, Mediterranean women, women in veils, women with long messy hair, and she wishes she could beat her breast and wail" (p. 6).


  2. Does Nina seem like a person bent on truth? Does she reproach herself for being deceptive? When? For what? Is she ever dishonest with herself?


  3. How do Philip the mathematician and Nina the artist respond to each other's fields? With respect? Curiosity? Talk about particular times when their worlds ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Even though Tuck profiles a marriage at its most vulnerable and tragic moments, she also vividly portrays the pleasures and strengths of a marriage partnership. And the ending, although ambiguous and certainly surprising, is the perfect distillation of the novel's themes and preoccupations. Tuck writes both clearly and concisely about mathematics; her explications of complicated problems such as the Schrödinger's cat paradox dovetail nicely with the rest of the narrative, echoing, but never upstaging, the novel's other themes.   (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

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Media Reviews
Bookpage

The writing is lyrical and striking, vividly capturing the nature of memory and the way in which love, though never simple, is contained and proven in the small, indelible moments of our lives.

The Boston Globe

Beautiful... Tuck produces spare prose that doesn't sacrifice tension or emotion in its economy.... An artfully crafted still life of one couple's marriage.

Library Journal

A full and satisfying portrayal of a marriage... Great fodder for readers who enjoy pondering life's larger questions.

Kirkus Reviews

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

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A breathlessly mannered, affecting new work... Small, vital snapshots make up two lives closely shared, and beautifully portrayed in this triumph of a novel.

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Schrödinger's Cat

One classic thought experiment (i.e. an experiment that is purely theoretical but could never be actually carried out) that plays a pivotal role in I Married You for Happiness is the famous case of Schrödinger's cat. "Something else about a cat," Nina recalls. "Something she can never quite grasp. Tell me again, she whispers to Philip. This time, I promise, I'll try to understand."

In everyday life, at the macroscopic level, we can explain the physics of how things move; if you hit a billiard ball with a pool cue with a certain force, you can calculate where it will end up. But when dealing with near-invisible particles at a very small scale, it's a completely different ballgame. It has been discovered that determining where and ...

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