Lily Tuck (2011)
I first heard about this book thanks to Jeff at Book Riot as a book that didn’t get the attention it deserved last year. I couldn’t agree more. Why aren’t more people talking about this book?
I Married You for Happiness tells the story of Nina who finds her husband, Philip, has unexpectedly passed away while taking a nap before dinner. After a neighbour’s unsuccessful attempt at CPR, and with dinner going cold downstairs, Nina is left alone to grieve next to her husband’s body. This book follows Nina during the course of a single night as she remembers the highs and lows of her long marriage.
It is a simple concept and the author has executed it beautifully. While I have often heard the term ‘stream of consciousness’, I will admit to not truly understanding what that means. If I had to guess though, I think the phrase could be used to describe the narrative of this book. It is a ‘stream of thought’, at least. The story of Nina and Philip’s relationship is not told chronologically but in the haphazard way that memories trigger other memories. Somehow, this is never confusing. And while it is certainly an emotional subject, it never becomes sickly sweet. Via Nina’s thoughts, we are able to see the whole story of their marriage, including the parts that aren’t supposed to be voiced aloud after someone has died – the things she loved about Philip and the things that aggravated her; the magical moments and the regrets.
This book was so well written that I felt as though I was sitting next to Nina, holding vigil with her. In fact, I started this book before going to bed and struggled to put it down, not wanting to leave Nina alone with her grief while I slept. I was that invested. With bleary eyes at 1am, I finally had to admit defeat, but had finished the book before my shower in the morning. It really is that good.
During the last 30 pages or so, I worried how the author was going to bring the book to close. As dawn broke at Nina’s house I was afraid that the cold responsibilities of morning – the duties of informing loved ones, arranging death certificates, etc – would detract from Nina’s night of reminiscing. I was relieved that the author avoided these realities but that did mean that the book seemed to suddenly finish without warning. I don’t know how it could have been done differently, but the ending did leave me slightly disappointed. This is a minor point only – do not let this deter you from reading this wonderful book.
You must read this book. Buy it. Borrow it. Whatever. And then tell others.
4.5 out of 5 stars.