Casting about for reading inspiration, I consulted the Publisher's Weekly "Top Ten Books of 2011" and opted for Lily Tuck's I Married You for Happiness -- what serendipity!
Tuck's short (193-page), poignant novel takes place over the course of a single night, during the vigil that Nina keeps at the side of her husband who has died, quite unexpectedly. It sounds like a tragic scenario, but in the expert hands of this award-winning novelist it is a lyrical and absorbing portrait of a 42-year marriage.
When Nina discovers that Philip has suffered cardiac arrest during a pre-dinner nap, she settles in by his side for a last night with him. Weaving a dreamlike tapestry of their years together she randomly revisits the events of a closely-shared lifetime, holding at bay the need for arrangements, phone calls and the inevitable onslaught of grief that will arrive with the dawn.
Flash back to the sidewalk cafe where young Philip, a gifted mathematician and academic, meets artistic Nina, whose job in a Parisian art gallery pays just enough to keep her in painting supplies.
He is logical and orderly while she is scattered and impulsive, the yin to his yang. They fall in love, marry, and travel the world--to all appearances the perfect couple. But Nina's recollections are not selective--their relationship has been marred by hurts and cruelties that she is not afraid to re-examine.
Ultimately, Nina and Philip have stayed the marital course, navigating around the perils of infidelity, jealousy, shocking events and secrets both kept and revealed, all of which might have sunk a union between souls less in tune. But did they find the happiness for which they married? This engaging and thought-provoking work is Lily Tuck's fifth novel; she won the National Book Award in 2004 for The News from Paraguay.