Knopf. Sept. 2023. 624p. ISBN 9780593536117. $30. F
Following the award-winning The Nix, Hill offers a smart, expansively written portrait of a marriage that also captures the social landscape of the last two decades. With windows facing across a narrow Chicago alley, students Jack and Elizabeth meet and fall deliciously in love in a move that feels fated. He’s a waifish, searching photographer from the rural Midlands who feels as out of place in Chicago as he did on the prairie. She’s from a wealthy, distinguished New England family and is eager to escape their glare, eventually working at a lab that studies placebos as inherently effective because people believe the stories created around them. Twenty years on, Jack and Elizabeth’s marriage suffers from distance and disappointment as the author examines the stories we tell ourselves, the persuasiveness of believing, the burdens of family and class, the meaning of art, the dangers of social media, the very possibility of truth, how we change over time, and what we seek in others, in a narrative so heady readers may be tempted to take notes.
VERDICT Jack’s friend Ben says of his master’s thesis, “Ostensibly it’s about Wicker Park. But really? It’s about life.” Hill’s book is ostensibly about one couple’s relationship. But really? It’s about life. Highly recommended.
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