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September Songs: The Good News About Marriage in the Later Years Hardcover – September 4, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this well-researched and eminently readable study, journalist Scarf (Intimate Partners) plunges into the lives of married people between the ages of 50 and 75, inquiring how their partnerships have changed, been renegotiated, reframed and refreshed as increased longevity has added up to three decades to the span of an average marriage. Conducting in-depth interviews with seven couples, the author poses perceptive and challenging questions to her subjects, asking how they have weathered difficulties, affairs, health problems, how they have disappointed or surprised each other over time and what are the major sexual issues that emerge at this time of life. The results, though hardly surprising (financial worries, lack of sexual desire and compromise are all recurring themes), are nonetheless stimulating, not least because these couples are so open, a testament to Scarf's skills as an interviewer. Her case studies are interspersed with chunks of data and interpretations that lend welcome empirical backup to her claims and add authority to this fascinating overview of an unexplored topic that should appeal to couples of all ages. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"[An] engrossing investigation into enduring marriage...unexpectedly candid"
-The New York Times Book Review

"Scarf is good...a probing but tactful questioner, an active listener, and even, on occasion, a quasi-therapist."
-The Washington Post

"A journalistic book...the clearest message, both from the research and the couples, is upbeat."
-The Economist

"Scarf wonderfully captures those insights that give meaning and joy to life even as the clock ticks."
-Jerome Groopman, M.D., author of How Doctors Think

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; First Edition, 1st Printing edition (September 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594488509
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594488504
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,704,400 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Maggie Scarf is a former visiting fellow at the Whitney Humanities Center, Yale University, and a current fellow of Jonathan Edwards College, Yale University. She was for many years a Contributing Editor to The New Republic and a member of the advisory board of the American Psychiatric Press.

Maggie Scarf is the author of six books for adults, including the acclaimed New York Times bestsellers Unfinished Business: Pressure Points in the Lives of Women and Intimate Partners: Patterns in Love and Marriage. Her other books include: Body, Mind, Behavior (a collection of essays, most of them first published in The New York Times Magazine); Intimate Worlds: How Families Thrive and Why They Fail; Secrets, Lies, Betrayal: How the Body Holds the Secrets of a Life, and How to Unlock Them; and, most recently, September Songs: The Bonus Years of Marriage. She is also the author of two books for children. Her works have been published in British, Canadian, German, Hebrew, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French and Swedish editions. Her latest book, The Remarriage Blueprint: How Remarried Couples And Their Families Succeed or Fail, is due out from Scribner this September.

Ms. Scarf is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including a Ford Foundation Fellowship and a Nieman Fellowship in Journalism at Harvard. She has received several National Media Awards from the American Psychological Foundation, including the first prize. During the recent past, Ms. Scarf has served on the National Commission on Women and Depression, has been the recipient of a Certificate of Appreciation from the Connecticut Psychological Association, and also received The Connecticut United Nations Award, which cited her as an Outstanding Connecticut Woman. In 1997, she was awarded a Special Certificate of Commendation from the American Psychiatric Association for an article on patient confidentiality ("Keeping Secrets"), which was published in The New York Times Magazine.

She has appeared on many television programs, including Oprah, Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS News, and CNN, and has been interviewed extensively on radio and for magazines and newspapers across the nation. She currently blogs for Psychology Today.

Maggie Scarf lives in Connecticut with her husband Herb, the Sterling Professor of Economics at Yale, and is the mother of three adult daughters.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Dr. David Frisbie on September 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Here's the blueprint for a happy, lifelong union. It's called "staying together no matter what" --- and these couples, married 40 or 50 years or longer, tell you exactly how they did it.

Author Maggie Scarf has written a wonderful treatise on fulfillment in marriage, and shows us how you get there: going through hard times, and moving forward with courage and commitment to a better tomorrow.

There's nothing simplistic here, no formula, no program. Instead, there's the sage advice of 'the greatest generation' and others --- showing us the virtue and value of keeping your promises and staying together.

A great gift for a wedding or anniversary --- and a great read for yourself.

Dr. David & Lisa Frisbie
The Center for Marriage & Family Studies
Del Mar, California
Authors of ten books, including: The Soul-Mate Marriage: The Spiritual Journey of Becoming One
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By D. P. Birkett on October 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If a marriage is less than perfect and the kids are out from under then why do people stay married? I think that's the question Maggie Scarf sets out to answer. She arrives at a very up-beat set of solutions. Just hang on in there and it won't be as bad as you think. Her methods are at least partly scientific. She reviews what has been written on the subject and she conducted structured interviews, including questions about health, sex and money, with 75 couples. A lot of the book, probably its most readable part, consists of descriptions of six of these interviews.
Of course we can't know how objective she was, and maybe she would have had trouble finding a publisher for a book that just said we get more miserable as we get older. Suicide rates go up, especially for old white guys, although there is evidence that women suffer less depression.
I think this will be of interest to older married couples. For professionals in the field of geriatric mental health it is lacking in scientific rigor. The writing is clear but klunky; full of adverbs and phrases such as "both members of the pair nodded in energetic agreement."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David Shores on September 8, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Maggie Scarf provides an excellent overview about the many ways that marriages change over the years. She blends statistics for large numbers of marriages with illustrations taken from in depth interviews with six couples.

The "bonus years" are the 50s, 60s, and 70s. These are the thirty years added to our average lifetime since 1900. The author describes the "U Shaped Curve" which refers to our level of excitement about marriage: The left side of the U represents the initial passion and the bottom of the U describes the difficulties of the responsibilities and of all the miscommunications caused by our lack of time and energy. The right side of the U was missing altogether before 1900 because we died too young. Now we have the opportunity to understand more about our spouse as we live the bonus years.

Other books I enjoy about the general topics covered in "September Songs" are:
1. "The Longevity Revolution", By Robert Butler. This is a comprehensive study about "The Benefits and Challenges of Living a Longer Life".
2. "Happiness is a Serious Problem", by Dennis Prager. This book provides guidelines for choosing how to live a happy, meaningful, life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By E. Stiefler on February 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Maggie Scarf does a wonderful job with this book and it's wonderful to see the report of how couples are doing whom she'd interviewed earlier in their relationships 20 years earlier
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