I just read Louise Erdrich's gripping novel, Shadow Tag, about an out-of-control marriage that reads like a literary thriller - which it really is. You can't put it down. I always tell my students that fiction is fiction, period. If it's called a novel you don't start wondering what was true, what was made up, but I of course was wondering. I even Googled the articles that came out after the death of Erdrich's husband, Michael Dorris.
Erdrich and Dorris were the star literary couple over a decade ago. They were both incredibly talented and good looking, they edited each other, wrote books together, and had a houseful of children; they had what appeared to be the perfect life. And then Dorris committed suicide in a motel room, and it came out that they had separated months before, and there were alligations of abuse. So yes, I looked for clues in her novel, and in the end realized that she had made art out of tragedy.
I also went back to Dorris's fiction and read his collection of short stories, Working Men. His range and storytelling was breath taking. He could write from the point of view of women as well as men, gay and straight, blue collar, middle class, funny, serious. He was a master of the short story.
Whatever their true stories were, their fiction transcends the sad ending of their life together and is worth reading.