A Happy Marriage
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A Happy Marriage

3.4 30
by Rafael Yglesias
     
 

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A Happy Marriage, Yglesias’s return to fiction after a thirteen-year hiatus, was inspired by his relationship with his wife, who died in 2004. Both intimate and expansive, it is a stunningly candid novel that alternates between the romantic misadventures of the first weeks of the courtship of Enrique Sabas and his wife Margaret and the final

Overview

A Happy Marriage, Yglesias’s return to fiction after a thirteen-year hiatus, was inspired by his relationship with his wife, who died in 2004. Both intimate and expansive, it is a stunningly candid novel that alternates between the romantic misadventures of the first weeks of the courtship of Enrique Sabas and his wife Margaret and the final months of her life as she says good-bye to her family, friends, and children—and to Enrique. Spanning thirty years, this achingly honest story is about what it means for two people to spend a lifetime together—and what makes a happy marriage. “Anyone in a relationship will be able to relate,” said USA TODAY .

Told from the husband’s point of view, with revelatory and sometimes disarming candor, the novel charts the ebb and flow of marriage, illuminating both the mundane moments and the magic. Bold, elegiac, and emotionally suspenseful, Yglesias’s beautiful novel will break every reader’s heart—while encouraging all of us with its clear-eyed evocation of the enduring value of marital love.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[A] devastatingly raw appraisal of a nearly 30-year marriage...heart-wrenching." — Publishers Weekly

"Rafael Yglesias's novel — long and graceful and written to display an intimacy wincingly believable — is about life, itself, not just one particular marriage. As the book alternates between past and present, we grow, along with the characters: as they jump boundaries, so do we; as they resign themselves to a sad inevitability, we feel viscerally cornered, too. It's a punch-in-the-stomach book, but the sharpness forces us to open our eyes wide. Impressive." — Ann Beattie, author of Follies

"Yglesias mixes passion and pain in this deep and searing story of love. With unflinching honesty, he reveals the resilience of the human spirit in the face of illness and loss." — Jerome Groopman, author of How Doctors Think

"A profound deliberation on the nature of love, marriage and the process of dying.... A tour de force... [Yglesias] has found the novel of his life." — Dinitia Smith, New York Times

"Maybe marriage is the oldest story in the world, but in Mr. Yglesias' tender, funny, rueful telling, the lifelong relationship is the story of life itself." — The Wall Street Journal

"Surprising and deeply affecting... A very brave book indeed." — Nancy Connors, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

"Brave ... instantly compelling." — Scott Muskin, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"Beautiful... Yglesias is a superb and courageous writer.... [A] riveting portrait of enduring love, with all its grand imperfections." — Karen Karbo, Bookforum

"Poignant and heartbreaking…. Anyone in a relationship will be able to relate.”—Craig Wilson, USA Today

“Enrique and Margaret are anything but common, distinct both as characters and in the endurance of their love.”—Malena Watrous, New York Times Book Review

Malena Watrous
…full of feeling but void of bathos…The mystery of what's at the heart of a marriage can't be unlocked, or even fully captured in words. But Enrique and Margaret are anything but common, distinct both as characters and in the endurance of their love.
—The New York Times Book Review
Dinitia Smith
Rafael Yglesias has transformed the story of his life and that of his wife, Margaret Joskow, who died in 2004, into a profound deliberation on the nature of love, marriage and the process of dying.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Yglesias (Fearless) delivers his first novel in 13 years, an autobiographical and devastatingly raw appraisal of a nearly 30-year marriage. As the novel opens in 1975, 21-year-old Enrique Sabas, a high school-dropout literary wunderkind, has just met Margaret Cohen, a vivacious, beautiful budding graphic designer who will become the love of his life. Enrique and Margaret's romantic and sexual misadventures during the first awkward weeks of their courtship are interspersed with scenes from the couple's three decades together before Margaret succumbs to cancer: raising children, losing a parent, the temptation of an easy affair. Margaret's physical decline and Enrique's acknowledgment of guilt, inadequacy and a selfish desire to postpone his loss are described in blunt, heart-wrenching detail, and Enrique's ongoing struggles to define the nature of masculinity, the significance of art and the value of marriage add a philosophical layer to the domestic snapshots. Although the couple's privileged lifestyle can get in the way of the reader-character bond, the texture of their marriage and the pain of their loss will be familiar to anyone who has shared a long-term relationship. (July)

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Library Journal

Enrique and Margaret Sabas have been married for 30 years. Now, Margaret is under hospice care in the final stages of cancer and asks Enrique to control access to her during her final days so that she can say good-bye to a select few on her own terms. Enrique does so, patiently waiting for his own turn. As he waits, he remembers their life together, from their first conversation forward. Yglesias alternates between past and present, contrasting the budding and then mature relationship to the sad reality of its end. This heartbreaking story is told from personal experience, adding to the deep and vivid depiction of events. Yglesias, the author of eight other novels (e.g., Fearless) and several screenplays, provides a moving and emotional picture of how a successful marriage comes to be-and ends.
—Joanna M. Burkhardt

Kirkus Reviews
Autobiographical work from novelist/screenwriter Yglesias (Dr. Neruda's Cure for Evil, 1996, etc.) chronicles a man's confrontation with the imminent death of his wife. The novel begins with the 1975 meeting of precocious young novelist Enrique Sabas and beautiful, artistic Margaret Cohen in his walk-up Greenwich Village apartment, then flashes forward to the novel's present, when she begs him to help her die rather than let her suffer anymore from terminal cancer. From there, odd-numbered chapters chronicle the couple's courtship and flawed marriage; even-numbered ones return to the present, as Enrique, now a successful screenwriter, searches for the strength to help his wife bid loved ones farewell and die with dignity. The flashbacks illuminate Enrique's psychology but give the narrative a disjointed quality. The back story devolves into confessional: Enrique blames himself for unhappiness in their marriage, breast-beating over his lack of sexual self-esteem due to occasional impotence-which makes an absurd combination with a libido depicted as so ravenous that it has strained his relationship with Margaret. Enrique's painful honesty about his pathological self-consciousness and solipsism might, in lighter doses, pass for self-deprecation, but when he tells us all about the technological wonder of his Treo smartphone before turning his attention to his dying wife, he is both unlikable and impossible to take seriously. Granted, he's under extreme emotional duress. The frequency with which his mind wanders over trite details unrelated to the dire matters at hand, however, make it exceedingly hard to buy into the tragic scenario the author has set up-that Enrique has only recently becomeaware that his wife is the love of his life. Near the end, past and present scenes alternate with greater rapidity, contrasting early episodes of romance and sex with the brutal details of Margaret's progress toward death. Yglesias knows how to pluck the heartstrings but flounders in the execution. A would-be tragedy that plays unsuccessfully on the inherent fascination with sex and death. Author events in Los Angeles and New York Tri-State Area. Agent: Lynn Nesbit/Janklow & Nesbit

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781439102312
Publisher:
Scribner
Publication date:
08/10/2010
Pages:
371
Sales rank:
872,232
Product dimensions:
8.60(w) x 11.28(h) x 0.94(d)

Meet the Author

Rafael Yglesias is an American novelist and screenwriter, the son of writers Jose and Helen Yglesias. He dropped out of high school upon publication of his first novel, Hide Fox, And All After in 1972 at age seventeen. He is the author of nine novels, including A Happy Marriage, winner of the 2009 Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize, Dr. Neruda's Cure For Evil and Fearless, which he adapted for the screen, and The Wisdom of Perversity. He also wrote the screenplays for Death and the Maiden, Les Miserables, From Hell, and Dark Water. He has two sons: Matthew Yglesias, a Fellow at the Center For American Progress, public intellectual and author of Heads In The Sand; Nicholas Yglesias is a fantasy novelist who has recently completed Succession, the first of a three volume trilogy. Rafael lives in the city of his birth, New York.

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A Happy Marriage 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
LovesToReadBW More than 1 year ago
A Happy Marriage October 4, 2010 Rafael Yglesias This book was so sad and so happy and so beautiful all at the same time. A very intense read showing the life of a marriage - its ups and downs, raising kids, jobs, friends, extended families, and illnesses and the impact that these each can have on the marriage and the people in the marriage. It will definitely make you sit back and reflect on your life and everything going on around you. Relationships make you grow up in different ways with different people. I think Rafael has shown that people change over time and depending on the person's personality they make choices that sometimes impact others negatively and other times they make choices that have a positive impact.
c-leder More than 1 year ago
A Happy Marriage is a beautifully written story based actual events. The author, Rafael Yglesias, retells the first three weeks as a young man courting his wife, Margaret Cohen, and the last three weeks of her life. The structure of the novel enables the reader to become involved with the characters as young adults starting life and then as participants in a 30 year marriage. It is a book that will make you cry and laugh. The author is very open and honest in a way that could only have been possible because of his wife's death. He has given us a portrait of what is is to love, not in a perfect way, but in a profoud one. I recommend this book. You will be thinking about it long after you finished the last pages.
kwlibralibris More than 1 year ago
"A Happy Marriage" is one of those books that will stay with me forever. Successful marriages are fascinating and every one is different in its combination of tenderness and power. But there is something that seems to be at the heart of all of them, and I have never seen it pictured so clearly as in A Happy Marriage. It goes beyond negotiating a balance in that biological imperative of male DNA wanting multiple receptors and female DNA wanting a secure environment to raise young. What Yglesias is able to do is to highlight that still point where the individual soul's need to be really known is balanced against the anger and fear that exposure brings. Usually the center of the storm can't hold, but in a successful marriage, somehow both people are able to hang on for dear life and make it through, even if they don't know how or even why. By the time "love" as we think of it has endured 30 or more years, it becomes something else entirely, and A Happy Marriage shows in detail exactly what that is.
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Iamlal More than 1 year ago
I was very excited when I started reading this book. I thought the idea behind it was a good one: what makes a marriage a marriage. I enjoyed the first part, but the second part was a total disappointment. Going back and forth between the past and present of Margaret and Enrique's life together was interesting at first, but it became very annoying in the second part when the change between past and present is done every other paragraph. Therefore, instead of building up towards the end it made the book pretty boring for the last ten chapters. Also, the excessive importance given to Enrique's erectile dysfunction was distracting and superfluous, while on the other hand little importance was given to how and why they fell in love. Half of the book is filled with repetitive and irrelevant information; there were issues discussed in the first part in detail and totally forgotten in the second, for example Bernard. It seems as though towards the end there was a rush to finish the book and deliver it to the editor, who did not perform a good job either. For short: it had everything to be a great book, but failed at it.
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I finished reading "A Happy Marriage" two days ago (actually, I could not put it down) and am still brought almost to tears when I think if it. It is one of the most achingly beautiful, honest and devastating pieces of literature that I have ever read. And to have this beautiful love/life story told from a very male perspective was so enlightening - causing me to look at my father's infidelities, my failed marriages, and my current relationship in a different way. A very moving story....
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