A Happy Marriage is both intimate and expansive: It is the story of Enrique Sabas and his wife, Margaret, a novel that alternates between the romantic misadventures of the first three weeks of their acquaintance and the final months of Margaret’s life as she says goodbye 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.
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2009 Winner for Fiction
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Highbrow & Brilliant
“…a tour de force…Rafael Yglesias has transformed the story of his life and that of his wife…into a profound deliberation on the nature of love, marriage and the process of dying.”
Dinitia Smith, New York Times Daily Review
“This is real intimacy, the hard-earned kind between two people who have chosen to stick it out to the end, proving that you can fall back in love…Enrique and Margaret are anything but common, distinct both as characters and in the endurance of their love.”
Malena Watrous, New York Times Sunday Book Review
It was a happy marriage, and it was also an unhappy one, like all long marriages. In Mr. Yglesias’s ninth novel, the narrator, Enrique Sabas, at various moments cherishes his wife and desperately wants to divorce her. But even he admits he’s not the easiest guy to live with…Maybe marriage is the oldest story in the world, but in Mr. Yglesias’s tender, funny, rueful telling, the lifelong relationship is the story of life itself.
Wall Street Journal, The Summer Book List
…told in back-and-forth chapters recounting its sweet, charming and quirky beginnings alongside its poignant and heartbreaking end. This is a brutally honest book. Anyone in a relationship will be able to relate…eloquent.
Craig Wilson, USA Today
Yglesias’ novel is a stunner. By turns wrenching, amusing and exasperating…The book’s strength lies in its depiction of marriage as a journey marked by love and hate, romance and tedium.
Michelle Green, People Magazine, 3 1/2 Stars of 4
Yglesias is a superb and courageous writer…riveting portrait of enduring love, with all its grand imperfections, manages a tricky literary feat: warming your heart as he breaks it.
Karen Karbo, Bookforum
…recounts the triumphs and failures of a well-matched relationship with raw, often brutal honesty…that reveal both the limits and transcendence of a true, lasting love.
Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly, A-
The rawest depiction of longtime love in recent memory…a blood-and-guts foray into the nature of human intimacy.
Megan O'Grady, Vogue
I can’t think of many examinations of long-term marriages in modern novels, and that alone makes Rafael Yglesias’ surprising and deeply affecting new work stand out. What’s more, it’s clearly autobiographical, yet deals evenhandedly with deeply painful subjects, which makes it a very brave book indeed.
Nancy Connors, Cleveland Plain Dealer
But the real question is, can Yglesias use this autobiography to plumb Enrique’s psychological depths and return something relevant? Done and done. In prose that flexes with unflinching confidence, Yglesias parts the hospital curtain to show not just death’s indignities— Margaret’s “scouring pad” of hair, or the stomach tube politely hidden inside a L’Occitane bag— but also its tender comedy, small reprieves and surreal turns of fortune. Not to mention its heartbreak.
Scott Muskin, Minneapolis Star Tribune
Rafael Yglesias’ 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