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

I MARRIED YOU FOR HAPPINESS

Using shards of memory, Tuck creates the portrait of a marriage in her latest, following the NBA winner The News from Paraguay (2004, etc.).

Nina and Philip have been married for 42 years. He’s a university mathematician, she’s an artist. His death is as quiet as the fall of a leaf. He returns to their Massachusetts home to rest before dinner. Nina finds him dead. Cardiac arrest, says her neighbor, an endocrinologist. Here Tuck suspends time, allowing Nina, during the night ahead, to sift through the memories and images from their life together. Tuck uses a loose variation of a binary, Hegelian model. On the one hand are the mathematical formulations spelled out by Philip in the lecture hall and over the dinner table; he’s a popular, witty teacher. Numbers represent logic and order; they are beyond time. In opposition are Nina’s memories, their wild disorder at the mercy of time. These are “the manifestations of the inner self," Nina’s reference to a Nathalie Sarraute novel she’s reading when Philip hits on her at a café in Paris, their first meeting. It is daring of Tuck to set their courtship in Paris, such well-trodden ground for young lovers. The result is a somewhat synthetic charm. What’s real, shockingly so, is Nina’s rape by Philip’s French cousin in a forest outside the city. Nina never told Philip about the rape or its consequence, a risky back-alley abortion; another secret was her one infidelity, a summer fling with a yachtsman in Brittany. Was Philip faithful to her? Nina doesn’t know, but she has a jealous temperament, an irritant among her many happy memories of lovemaking, meals and shared laughter. Another possible irritant, the contrast between Philip’s successful career and Nina’s failure to make it commercially, goes unaddressed, a disconcerting omission masked by exotic vacation travel writing.

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

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8021-1991-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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