The narrator of this book (whose gender is never specified) is blindsided by love, then blindsided by loss. We get glimpses of their past relationships—boyfriends, girlfriends, affairs with married women—but mostly we get the story of their relationship with Louise, which is a story of bliss followed by absence. “Why is the measure of love loss?” is how the book starts: so you have an idea of how things are going to go.
On the sentence level and paragraph level there is a lot to like in this book. Like:
“I used to think of marriage as a plate-glass window just begging for a brick.”
Or this, on saints and pilgrims:
“Love it was that drove them forth. Love that brought them home again. Love hardened their hands against the oar and heated their sinews against the rain. The journeys they made were beyond common sense; who leaves the hearth for the open sea? especially without a compass, especially in winter, especially alone. What you risk reveals what you value. In the presence of love, hearth and quest become one.”
Or this, about the Church of England and village life, in times past:
“The slow moving of the seasons, the corresponding echo in the Book of Common Prayer. Ritual and silence. Rough stone and rough soil.”
While reading this, I sometimes found myself impatient with it, with the amount of sadness in it (and also, I don’t know, with its monogamy-centric aspects) but I think the end redeems it for me, the last sentence in particular.