Table of Contents
TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCES
Alison Lurie is the author of many novels, including
The War Between the Tates
The Truth About Lorin Jones
(winner of the Prix Femina Ãtranger),
(winner of the Pulitzer Prize), and
The Last Resort
. Her most recent book was
Boys and Girls Forever: Children's Classics from Cinderella to Harry Potter
. She teaches writing, folklore, and literature at Cornell University and divides her time between Ithaca, New York, and Key West, Florida.
Truth and Consequences
“A delightful writer whose novels are a pleasure to read, Lurie [is] . . . a writer well worth cherishing for giving us novels that are as gracefully edifying as they are incontrovertibly entertaining.”
âLos Angeles Times
“There is not one wasted word in
Truth and Consequences.
. . . Lurie's language is as sharp as the claws of pain that rule Alan's life and the pangs of guilt that threaten Jane's. The book is delightfully readable. You are into it and out of it before you know it, but not without a fresh look at the maneuvers inside marriage.”
“This is a comedy of adultery with a comedy of academia thrown in . . . as in the best comedies, everyone gets justice, and no one escapes it.”
âThe New Yorker
“Amiable, quietly witty and readable.”
âThe Washington Post
“Lurie . . . is back doing what she does best.”
âThe Miami Herald
“Another razor-sharp satire of upper-class social norms and male-female relationships . . . a fascinating peak at the complexities of love and marriage . . . a brilliant romp . . . Lurie has created a novel that both pokes fun and commiserates with her characters, a tough feat and a wonderful read.”
âRocky Mountain News
“Alison Lurie is a master at writing about how relationshipsâeven the best of themâcan come unraveled faster than you can say âaffair.'
Truth and Consequences
strikes a chord because its protagonists must answer a difficult question we can all relate to: What happens when, as Jane repeatedly says, life is âall wrong'? Lurie's characters are believable because they force us to ponder this. . . . Her ability to probe the complexity of human relationships becomes apparent, and the story offers plenty of tough insights about what it means to love someone and about the often illogical nature of human relationships.”
“Lurie's direct writing makes her novel a compelling read, and her plot drives her characters successfully. The reader is allowed the near-voyeuristic pleasure of watching old ties die while new ones begin. Even readers who aren't fans of romance will be enticed by Lurie's ability to fill her story with engaging characters.”
“A biting, funny glimpse behind the scenes of a prestigious college. . . . Lurie . . . has a light touch with college comedy, here, and her characters are true to lifeâspend any time around a campus and you'll know them all . . . fun reading.”
“The characters are what make this book flow. Lurie is whip-smart and very funny.”âThe Associated Press
Truth and Consequences
is wise and funny, with a sublimated sexiness that keeps the pot bubbling in a way that transcends the narrowness of academic novels. Lurie is at her best when she's sly, and she's plenty sly here. In
Truth and Consequences
, she's in top form, carefully portraying a range of deluded people but never subverting them.”
âPalm Beach Post
“Lurie is a poison-pen satirist who particularly enjoys skewering academics and writers. In this tightly wound, fairy-tale parody about the ruthless self-regard of creative people and the revenge of the good and steadfast, Lurie toys with the conventions of romance. Lurie is wickedly entertaining as she mocks everything from the ego of the artist to the bossiness of the meek, and everyone lives happily ever after.”
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First published in the United States of America by Viking Penguin,
a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 2005
Published in Penguin Books 2006
Copyright Â© Alison Lurie, 2005
All rights reserved
Photograph courtesy of Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
ISBN : 978-1-4406-2734-7
1. College teachersâFiction. 2. BackâWounds and injuriesâPatientsâFiction.
3. Chronic painâPatientsâFiction. 4. Married peopleâFiction.
5. Older peopleâFiction. 6. New EnglandâFiction. I. Title.
The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.
FOR ALISON VAN DYKE
On a hot midsummer morning, after over sixteen years of marriage, Jane Mackenzie saw her husband fifty feet away and did not recognize him.
She was in the garden picking lettuce when the sound of a car stopping on the road by the house made her look up. Someone was getting out of a taxi, paying the driver, and then starting slowly down the long driveway: an aging man with slumped shoulders, a sunken chest, and a protruding belly, leaning on a cane. The hazy sun was in her eyes and she couldn't see his face clearly, but there was something about him that made her feel uneasy and a little frightened. He reminded her of other unwelcome figures: a property tax inspector who had appeared at the door soon after they moved into the house; an FBI official who was investigating one of Alan's former students; and the scruffy-looking guy who one summer two years ago used to stand just down the road where the ramp to the highway began, waving at passing cars and asking for a lift downtown. If you agreed, before he got out he would lean over the seat and in a half-whiny, half-threatening way ask for the “loan” of a couple of dollars.
Then Jane's vision cleared, and she saw that it was her husband Alan Mackenzie, who shouldn't be there. Less than an hour ago she had driven him to the University, where he had a lunch meeting at the College of Architecture, and where she had expected him to stay until she picked him up that afternoon. Since he'd hurt his back fifteen months ago, he hadn't been able to drive. Jane snatched up her basket of lettuce and began to walk uphill, then almost to run.
“What's happened, what's the matter?” she called out when she was within range.
“Nothing,” Alan muttered, not quite looking at her. His cane grated on the gravel as he came to a slow halt. “I didn't feel well, so I came home.”
“Is it very bad?” Jane put her hand on the creased sleeve of his white shirt. Crazy as it was, she still couldn't quite believe that the person inside the shirt was her husband. Alan wasn't anything like this, he was healthy and strong and confident, barely over fifty. This man had Alan's broad forehead and narrow straight nose and thick pale-brown hair, but he looked at least ten years older and twenty pounds heavier, and his expression was one of pain and despair. “You said at breakfast you were all rightâanyhow, no worse than usual. . . .” Her voice trailed off.
“If you want to know, I had a fucking awful night, and now I'm having a fucking awful day.” He moved sideways so that Jane's hand fell from his arm, and made a slow detour around her.
“Oh, I'm so sorry. Is there anything I can do?” She was following him now, speaking to his long stooped back. How could I not have known him? she thought. It wasn't my fault, it was because the sun was in my eyes and he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was surprised, that's all, the way you are when you run into neighbors when you're abroad, so at first you can't quite identify them.
But Alan is your husband
, her conscience said.
You should know him anywhere.
“No.” He paused by the kitchen door. “Well, maybe. You could help me off with my shoes. It just about kills me to bend over. And if you're going upstairs, you could bring down my pillows.”
“Yes, of course.” It occurred to Jane for the first time that there was a pattern here. Lately, Alan usually refused any offer of assistance at first, but soon corrected himself, asking for various objects and services. On other occasions he would wait longer, until she was somewhere else in the house and in the middle of some other activity, and then he would call for help.
“I can't go on like this. It's worse every day,” he muttered, leaning over the kitchen sink, gulping water and pills. He wiped his mouth on the cuff of his shirt, which should have been thrown in the laundry basket two days ago.
“I'm so sorry.” Jane put her arms around the soiled shirt and began a hugâbut Alan winced, and she let go. “Sorry,” she repeated.
Not acknowledging either her sympathy or her apology, he shuffled into the sitting room and slowly, with a muffled groan, began to ease himself onto the big flowered sofa, which was now placed diagonally across the middle of the room. It had been moved around last fall so that Alan could watch television while lying down, and an end table and coffee table had been positioned awkwardly beside it. The sitting room of their hundred-and-fifty-year-old farmhouse was low-ceilinged and small, and now resembled a crowded antique furniture store. It was difficult to have more than two people over, because with Alan stretched out on the sofa there was nowhere for them to sit. They hadn't had a dinner party for months, and they couldn't have had one anyhow because Alan couldn't sit in a straight chair for more than five minutes without excruciating pain. He had to eat standing up, or balance a plate on his chest as he lay on the various squashed pillows and cushions that now covered the sofa.