…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
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
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)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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
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
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