But always there is the same suffocating heat; always the same shattered light in the room separated from the terrace by the beaded curtain; always the dog nervously shifting his weight outside; always a glimpse of her red sarong draped over the chair and the acrid smell of sea, earth, and rot.
I found I Married You for Happiness while perusing the recent releases section at the library. I remembered I'd added this to my Goodreads list long ago and figured I could get through it rather quickly while working on finishing King's 11/22/63. While this is a short read, coming in at just over 200 pages, its pages are filled with heavy content.
Nina sits by the bedside, gripping the cold hand of her now deceased husband, Phillip. While Nina holds vigil in the span of an evening, the audience drifts through snapshots of the happiness and sorrow endured while sharing a life together.
If I was asked to use one word to describe the novel, I'd most likely voice somber. As Nina's only just come to terms with her husband's passing, when it occurs unexpectedly on a seemingly normal evening in their home, the audience is forced to share the emotions and thoughts passing through her head. The images of the past and the present move in succession quickly, almost like experiencing a dream sequence. And, in a sense, I guess that's what it may be for Nina. From time to time, Nina can hardly believe that he's actually gone. And I believe these were the hardest sections of the novel for me.
Nina's character may be overly jealous, and a bit selfish. However, I believe that many people have the tendency to ask themselves how they'll continue once they've lost someone they share so much with. We also see how she's developed as an individual next to Phillip. We see his character through her lens, a man very confident and content with his life, as opposed to herself, who struggles with her negative perception of herself as an artist. I will note that Phillip's character is a mathematics professor at an Ivy League school, and Tuck constructs much of Phillip's voice through his discussion of complex theorems with Nina, many of which she doesn't generally care for or pay attention to. I will also admit that I know these added another level to the novel, but was ambivalent about many of the probability rants and probably missed many connections on that score.
She thinks back on the moments when she was unfaithful, and back to when she knew he was as well. While I'll admit that I found the storyline of the wealthy and intelligent professor/artist couple, traveling to exotic locales, and engaging in unfeeling affairs, wholly unoriginal, I was able to move past the shell of these characters to enjoy the work on a deeper level. The intensity of the physical relationship, the stability a partner offers, the little habits that are so endearing/irritating, each pieces that made this work so relatable. While Nina and Phillip would never be considered a model relationship, I do believe that the intimacies otherwise offered a realistic portrait of a 40 year marriage.
All and all, Tuck's novel won't be one of my favorite titles of the year, but I did enjoy the intimacy it offered and the reflection it prompted. I suggest you pick it up if you're looking for something that is both moving and effortless.