Phillip is dead. By holding his gradually cooling hand, Nina, for one entire night, remembers the defining moments of their long life together as husband and wife. Private intimacies, dark secrets, and overwhelming joys. How to connect with someone, even after living forty years with them? All are individuals. Best we can hope for are momentary connections. Memories. Challenges. Threats to what we deem secure. Imagine spending the entire night alone with your dead spouse. Touching, but more importantly, something needed. And for those contiguous moments, too shocked to grieve.
Lily Tuck has bought me out. I am all in. Years ago, she writes, before they met, her husband accidentally kills a woman riding in his car with him. And later, her Nina has an affair with Phillip’s best friend. And then she has another with a son of a mutual friend, hiding both of these men from him. She also conceals the necessary abortion. Now Nina wonders to herself how many secrets Phillip had, and perhaps he had other hidden lovers as well. Now neither spouse will ever know due to their marital deceits. For a long time after, Nina is convinced that the migraine headaches are a punishment for her lies.
It is understandable that Nina suffers. The truth is often hurtful especially when it remains in hiding. She is confessing this on the page. Too late for it to benefit Phillip, or to find out what it is Nina knows is missing. Series upon series of events meant to enliven and enjoy. Never a thoughtful concern at the time for consequences. Only careful methods managing to remain concealed. These episodes blended within periods of general satisfaction.
Tuck’s writing is comfortably relaxed and warm in its feeling. No complaints about that. She is gifted and extremely sexy. Sensual to the degree my imagination soars. It is easy to want to be with Lily Tuck in every possible pose. To want her to get naked too. She even explains the difference. But intimacy ends as soon as you get inside her. It then it becomes just sex and something dogs simply do with no conscience. She sleeps with Jean-Marc only three or four times. Not enough to qualify as a proper affair.
As morning nears and the dawn of a new day Tuck’s prose quickens. Nina hurries. Her manners choppy and seeming nervous in some way. Phillips remains dead on the bed. Nina perhaps unsure of what she truly is. How long ago everything seems to her.
And how unreal.