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A Happy Marriage: A Novel Hardcover – July 7, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 123 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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

From Bookmarks Magazine

Yglesias is brutally honest in this deeply personal account of his thorny, but ultimately loving, marriage. He tells the parallel stories of the beginning and the end of this relationship "in something of a tour de force of novelistic architecture" (New York Times), which strikes a fine balance between the heady excitement of budding romance and the agonizing loss of enduring love. Though the story line may seem predictable at first, Yglesias throws in enough twists, surprises, and emotional urgency to keep readers turning the pages, and his fully realized—if not always likeable—characters are wholly convincing. A "profound deliberation on the nature of love, marriage, and the process of dying" (New York Times), this visceral, poignant novel will break your heart.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Printing edition (July 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439102309
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439102305
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #979,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Yglesias's novel is beautifully wrought, with meticulously crafted characters moving through the heartbreaking denouement of a thirty-year romance. Enrique, the protagonist, is saddled with the burden of herding his family through the final days of his wife Margaret's life. In between the episodes of final goodbyes and medical crises, the reader sees how their romance started and how it unfolded through their years of happy marriage.

Of course, it could hardly be happy in the sense of blissfully moving from one joyous moment to the next. They have their problems, including the near dissolution of their marriage in its early years. What makes the reader cheer from the sidelines, even while it is revealed that Enrique had an affair, is the way he desperately wants to tell his wife, at the end of her life, how much he loves her, how much her very existence has made life worth living. His fear, as he coordinates a social calendar of final goodbyes for her friends and family, is that he won't have a chance to tell her. This fear is pervasive, and seeing how these final days unfold make the novel engrossing.

Yglesias employs beautiful turns of phrase throughout the novel, putting words to feelings that many have experienced while dealing with the illness and death of a loved one. Enrique reveals how difficult it is to help other people cope emotionally, when he is trying so hard himself to do that as well: they were "demanding he put Band-Aids on their scrapes while he was bleeding to death" (88). Enrique deals with the demands of family, particularly Margaret's parents concern with funeral arrangements.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a difficult book to review in that while billed as a novel - certainly seems to match up with the author's life. The story of Enrique Sabas and his relationship with his wife Margaret seems a close mirror to that of author Rafael Yglesias and his wife Margaret.

So it's impossible to know how much is fiction...but I will try and write this based on what happens in the book.

"A Happy Marriage" - it's a title that I first assumed described a perfect marriage. Instead, it's about a real marriage - full of sorrows and mistakes and flaws and pain. But full of joy and love and miracles as well. It's about the emotional ties between two people who were part of each other's lives for nearly thirty years, and the physical nature of human life and love.

The story is told from Enrique's point of view - and while the reader comes to know Margaret through him, it is only his version of Margaret that we see. The woman he fell in love with, the woman who became the mother to his children, the woman he cared for while she was suffering and dying. We see how his relationship with her changes him, how his knowing of her alters his life forever.

The book follows two timelines - one as Enrique and Margaret meet and one that takes place in the final weeks of Margaret's life. We watch them come together and we see as they are separated by her cancer.

"He didn't think about her dead; he didn't contemplate a future without Margaret. He understood that she would die, and die soon, but he also knew that he didn't truly believe her life would end."

As we watch the young Enrique become captivated by the young Margaret, we know, as they do not, where their story will end.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Brief summary and review, no spoilers:

The story starts off in 1972, when a mutual friend introduces Enrique Sabas to the vivacious and pretty, Margaret Cohen. It was love at first sight for Enrique.

Enrique comes from a rather bohemian family of writers and he too becomes a novelist, dropping out of high school at age 16 to be a published author.

Margaret comes from a more traditional upper middle-class Jewish family and she has always been at odds with her controlling mother. When she meets Enrique he is 21, and she is 3 years older. She has inherited some of her mother's controlling nature.

This book is essentially the story of their relationship - the story of a marriage. The book starts when they first meet and from almost the very beginning (so no spoiler) , we know that it will end over 30 years later with Margaret dying of cancer. And although the title is A Happy Marriage, at times it is anything but that. In many ways this book is a realistic look at the hardships of any marriage, and the difficulties endured by any two different people who share their lives together.

I really enjoyed the way the story is told. It is told in alternating chapters at different points in time. We start off when they first meet, and then hop around a bit in time as we learn what happened during the marriage. The other chapters take place in 2005 when Margaret is dying, and the heartbroken Enrique is there to take care of her and help her end her life on her terms.

This technique really adds an interesting layer to the story, and I really enjoyed the way Yglesias was able to foreshadow events in the novel. It really made this book a page-turner, and I found myself reading and finishing it way too late last night.
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