As in Updike's 1968 Couples, two married households—in this case, the Conants and the Mathiases—meet and entwine. Jerry Conant's love for Sally Mathias is the primary engine of the novel; his wife Ruth's reaction, and the reaction of Sally's husband Richard, are the story's bookends.
The novel was well received by critics. In The Atlantic, Richard Todd enthusiastically welcomed the book: "'Marry Me,' for all its playfulness, is Updike's most mature work. His writing has deepened, grown wiser and funnier, like a face that is aging well." In Newsweek, Peter S. Prescott called the novel Updike's most affecting. "This understatement, this unwavering vision fixed on only four character, is a part of what makes the story so effective. Updike's best fiction has always been his most narrowly focused; in this novel the plot is direct—complex without becoming complicated by symbols thrashing obstrusively just behind the canvas—and refreshingly free from the portentousness that has marred several of his most ambitious novels. 'Mary Me' is the best written and least self-conscious of Updike's longer fiction; it contains his most sophisticated and sympathetic portraits of women. It is quite simply, Updike's best novel yet. I can't believe that anyone married or divorced could read it without being moved."