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Happy Marriage

3.78  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,063 Ratings  ·  471 Reviews
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 weeks of their courtship and the final months of Margaret's life as she says good-bye to her family, friends, and children -- and to Enrique. Spanning thirty years, this achingly honest story is ab ...more
Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Published (first published June 30th 2009)
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Oct 07, 2010 Vanessa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a Sunday morning and my husband returned from his habitual coffee outing. I saw his car pull up outside and I expected him to walk through the front door a moment later, but he didn’t. Looking through the front window, I saw him sitting in his car, head bowed. Ten minutes later he came in, glassy-eyed and solemn-faced, and he embraced me. What could have affected my normally cheerful and talkative spouse in such a way? Had he just been to see Inception again? No – he’d just finished Rafae ...more
Books Ring Mah Bell
This is not a happy marriage.

These thoughts are all jumbled and messed up in my head because I read this during a bout of insomnia and the parts of the wife dying of cancer were too damn painful to read. I cried. I nearly had a panic attack about things to come. (not for me or my spouse - at least not that I know of - but for my mom who is full of cancer.)

The first chapter I thought was sweet, how smitten he was with her, how love at first sight he was (which I personally believe to be poppycock
Aug 30, 2009 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a stunning evocation of thirty year marriage. Using short vignettes, the author moves back and forth between his courtship of the woman who becomes his wife and his attending her, more than thirty years later, as she faces a terminal illness. (There are a few moments, along the way, included as well).

In lesser hands, perhaps, this would be a heavy handed, contrived literary "device", but the structure serves Yglesias's purpose brilliantly. There is profound connection, between one's fee
Aug 06, 2009 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“A Happy Marriage” is autobiography thinly disguised as fiction. This is an incredibly moving and intensely literary book. Mr. Ygelsias has written a profoundly personal book, which exhibits his powers as a storyteller in a manner evidencing respect for his audience as well as his subject. This is an astonishing feat, considering that he has included ridiculously personal details of his marriage without seeming to betray the essential emotional intimacies of his married life.

I read it because I
Sep 27, 2010 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful, heartbreaking, and provocative . . . a brutally honest story told with such raw emotion that brought tears to my eyes several times (many while I was in public - I read this book on the plane and while waiting in airports :-). Anyone who is in a marriage or long term relationship will relate to these characters and their lives . . . from the euphoria surrounding those first dates and wanting more than anything just to be with the other person, to learning to live with and love someone ...more
Oct 03, 2009 Kendall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What makes a happy marriage? Rafael Yglesias, prodigy novelist--he published his first novel at 16--and screenwriter, turns his considerable talent to answering that question in his new book, entitled appropriately enough, A Happy Marriage. It is no spoiler to say the answer turns out far too complex for a simple review like this one. Nor is the conclusion that along the paths happy marriages take unhappiness and grief are strewn. The book never explicitly says so, but happily married couples al ...more
Tina Lender
There have been plenty of summaries written already, so I won't repeat them. Bottom line is I kept waiting to connect with the characters. I normally like whiny, neurotic characters, but Enrique tested my nerves. An artist with extremely fragile ego and a chip on his shoulder to boot. He tells this woman he loves her (twice) practically on the first date, then is resentful when he's soon stuck in a middle-class existence with a baby and wife. I did sympathize with his sexual problems, both befor ...more
Jul 28, 2010 Jenny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What I loved best about this book was the structure and the honesty with which the story was told. The whole thing's about a marriage, and Yglesias ricochets back and forth between young and old with each chapter. What kept happening was this: The protagonist's wife is on her deathbed and I am bawling, and it is tender and gut-wrenchingly sad, and suddenly, new chapter! They're young again, just meeting. He is 21 and nervous as hell. He is completely endearing and she is exciting, and there is l ...more
This is a hard book to review. It’s not the sort of book I’m typically drawn to, but I heard the novelist interviewed on NPR and my interest was piqued. It’s a fictionalized version of the author’s own life and 30-year marriage with his wife Margaret, who passed away from cancer in 2004. It’s billed as a ‘warts and all’ look at a marriage, and Iglesias has the story jump back and forth from when he first met his wife at age 21, to her last weeks as she dies from cancer. It sort of meets in the m ...more
Nov 25, 2012 Lorri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yglesias takes us through the daily struggles of hospice care, the physical, mental and emotional aspects of each moment. Illness is not only an issue for the patient, the one who is ill, but it is a family issue in every sense of the word.

Not only was Enrique caring for his wife, but also caring and trying to comfort his sons, and everyone else around him. The novel is an excellent study on family dynamics during the course of incurable illness. It is a study on marriage, love and its enduranc
Jul 10, 2009 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5/5 stars

The story A Happy Marriage begins in the 1970's when Enrique Sabas meets Margaret Cohen, who becomes his future wife. The two come from different backgrounds, but despite that, there is an immediate attraction.

Told in alternating chapters, it is a poignant story. It covers their dating tears, their marriage and other import events in their lives, which includes touching and compassionate detail about Margaret's battle with cancer, her ultimate demise and her husband's devotion to her
I had high hopes for this book after I heard an interview with the author and even (foolishly) gave a copy of it to my father as it was portrayed as a husband and wife’s struggle with her ending years and her final days as she dies of cancer.

The title is misleading, I think, as the book largely alternates between the first year of Enrique’s marriage to Margaret (Yeglesias’s wife real name) and the last several years of their life together. But while the writing is often rich, especially about th
Aug 31, 2009 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a beautiful book. I had to think about the number of stars. Though I wouldn't quite give it amazing, that being reserved for books like War & Peace, that are really life-changing, I think it deserves more than "really liked it."

This is a painful book, a book that made me cry, but not in an ET sort of way. By the time the wife dies at the end of the novel (not a spoiler; it's clear from the beginning that this is her last week of life) Yglesias has brought us through 30 years of hist
Jul 16, 2009 Becky rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Becky by: goodreads giveaways
I really liked this book at its beginning. A couple chapters through I liked the book. The author gave a moving a realistic portrayal of the patient / caregiver relationship. Some of the sentences really moved me. For example: "...he looked paler and weaker by the hour, as if he were bleeding out grief."
I was disappointed in the use of profanity throughout the book. I went back and forth liking and hating Enrique. "..No one could provide what he had forsaken for nearly three years, what cancer
Dec 30, 2012 Dana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully, though quite graphically, written. terribly sad with moments of utter joy mingled in among the sadness. not a book for everyone, this is basically an autobiographical novel based on the author's 29 yr. marriage to his wife, Margaret, who died in her 50's. This is not a spoiler, you know this on page 1. The novel goes back and forth in time from the couple's early days, and throughout the years until Margaret's death. The author is utterly self absorbed but his love for Margaret, tho ...more
Oct 02, 2014 Mandy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A gut-wrenchingly beautiful and moving book. Sad. Sad, sad, sad. But real.

I read the book, and then I read through a dozen or so reviews on goodreads, and I had to wonder: Are people critiquing the book, or Yglesias himself?

The man reveals himself to be everything the readers hate about him -- selfish, deceitful, insecure. He admits it! No need to confuse words here. I don't particularly care for him personally, either, readers. That he pulled out the end-of-game heroics in dealing with his wife
Jan 11, 2013 Offuscatio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Un matrimonio feliz" es una historia de amor, de lucha contra una enfermedad terminal y de reconciliación con la vida y el destino de los hombres. Una historia, que sin caer en sentimentalismos, ofrece una radiografía en colores transparentes de las reacciones ante el dolor y la pérdida. Un libro que, pese al escepticismo racional del lector, se lee con la voracidad de quien espera descubrir que la realidad no siempre supera la ficción y todavía se puede asistir a un final feliz.
Dimitrios Diamantaras
A remarkably absorbing novel. At once a poignant love story, a frank and horrific description of a slow death by cancer, and a disarming admission by the author of his own flaws (Yglesias makes no secret that this novel is autobiographical---I wonder how his sons feel about it).
I think I will be in the world of this story for a while...
Amanda L
I have to admit that my gauged enjoyment of this book was heavily influenced by the fact that my cat snuggled me the last fifteen minutes I spent finishing it. The characters were ostensibly Yglesias himself and his sick wife as she confronted her death-- and this is by no means a spoiler, as it is introduced in the opening chapters-- but these 'real' characters weren't crafted well enough for me to even care. The story is in no way about a happy marriage as the title suggests and yet, Yglesias, ...more
I had a love-hate relationship with this book. The story of Enrique's marriage, beginning with courtship and ending with the death of his wife Margaret from invasive cancer. I loved the gritty, honest writing of the chapters that dealt with Margaret's illness and her final days. I quickly grew tired and then loathed the parts that described the early courtship, during which, pardon the pun, Enrique couldn't rise to the occasion. Did I really need a whole chapter of mostly Enrique's
Mar 11, 2010 Paul rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I thought this was remarkably bad. We're constantly told what to feel, what to think, sometimes twice in the same sentence, as the author circles back to explain himself, to ensure that the reader knows exactly what he means. I knew I should have stopped on page 20 when I came across these two sentences:

Max pinched the lump of flesh again, painfully, and Enrique twisted away. "Sorry," Max apologized for hurting his father.

We know he's apologizing, he said sorry. Plus, we know what he's apologizi
Oct 05, 2012 Katie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book, about a happy (and sometimes miserable, and everything in between) marriage. It's got to be hugely autobiographical, since the author, like the protagonist, lost his wife to illness recently, and also dropped out of high school when he got his first book published. I couldn't help wondering where the author ended and the character began. The book is a beautifully-structured description of a fascinating relationship between two people, from when they first met to when the wife suc ...more
Apr 25, 2010 Wanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all thoughtful readers
Recommended to Wanda by: my husband
I was torn between allotting this book stars. Four or five. In the end, as terrific as this book is, it is not amazing and I have learned to moderate my “starring” on goodreads. Five stars should be awarded to works that are truly life altering; The Death of Ivan Ilych comes to mind, as does Crime and Punishment, for example.
This is a gorgeous book. It is written for the thoughtful reader. Some reviewers call it sad. Why? Because it is so brutally honest? Since when is a good hard look at what
Jul 05, 2010 Irene rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
Yet another story about a smug, artsy, sensitive man who doesn't appreciate his wife and the life/love/family they created until she is either about to leave him or die on him, or both.

I'm not generalizing here when I say that sometimes men have their heads up their asses. Especially when they write about how they miss their beloved dead wives after having conducted a prolonged affair with said wives' close friend, after having thought that the love was gone because said wives didn't feel like f
Jul 09, 2009 Lauren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Happy Marriage, at many times, is the story of anything but a Happy Marriage. The novel is about Enrique Sabas, a struggling half-Jewish, half-Latino writer living in New York City and Margaret Cohen, his ivy league educated wife. The novel opens in 1975 with Enrique meeting Margaret. He immediately is attracted to Margaret and in alternating chapters, the novel tells the story of how Enrique and Margaret became a couple. Woven in the novel is the story of Margaret's battle with cancer, told r ...more
Mar 24, 2011 nicole rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
You know right off the bat this book is going to be sad. It doesn't mince words. At the end of the book, Margaret is going to die. And the author's wife really died of cancer, so this is only one foot in fiction. Many reviews use the word expansive to politely describe this, but I felt it to be staggering. The book physically became harder to hold as certain scenes were retold. The depth of details as she fell apart. The constant return to the present day after being gloriously ingrained in the ...more
Lisa Kearns
Jun 24, 2013 Lisa Kearns rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just finished this book last night, and I'm still feeling a sense of grieving for the loss of Margaret (the wife in the book). I'll admit that I cried over the ending, which wasn't what I expected. The final chapters of her life were written by someone who has obviously watched someone die from cancer, and at times I had to put it down and distance myself. I understand that the author based his novel on his own marriage and the loss of his wife, which makes it seem very personal and almost mak ...more
Sep 23, 2009 Stacy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 25, 2009 Annie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me awhile to get into the rhythm of the writing- the back and forth from a frightening present dealing with cancer to a long ago past was a bit jarring at first. After about 200 pages, I could not put it down.

I grew to love the character of Enrique, admittedly flawed as he was. I loved his honesty and the portrayal of his development into the caring husband and man he became.

I think this book spoke to me because I have been married 20 years. I think the depiction of marriage, which som
Jamie Schrandt
I would recommend this book. It is an honest portrayal of a marriage narrated from the husband's point of view. I enjoyed Yglesias' writing style. I was disappointed in the main character at times, but this is a novel and if the writer is any good you are supposed to feel all sorts of emotions while reading it. The story was exquisitely told. I would give it a 4, but the ending irritated me.
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Rafael Yglesias (b. 1954) is a master American storyteller whose career began with the publication of his first novel, Hide Fox, and All After, at seventeen. Through four decades Yglesias has produced numerous highly acclaimed novels, including the New York Times bestseller Fearless, which was adapted into the film starring Jeff Bridges and Rosie Perez. He lives on New York City’s Upper East Side.
More about Rafael Yglesias...

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“Perhaps they assumed that he would have a hard time putting her first. Perhaps they had not understood that for a long time she had come first with him, that for many years she had been his heart's home and his mind's anchor and that fighting to keep her alive was essential to preserving his own soul.” 4 likes
“... and that did it. That brought those depthless blue eyes within a foot, perhaps six inches, maybe even closer, and something happened inside Enrique, like a guitar string suddenly unstrung. There was a shock and a vibration in his heart, a palpable break inside the cavity of his chest. He had dropped out of high school and never took a class in anatomy, but he did know that the cardiovascular system wasn't supposed to react as if it were the source and center of feeling. And yet he would have sworn to all and sundry - not that he expected to admit it to anyone - that Margaret, or at least her bright blue eyes, had just snapped his brittle heart.” 1 likes
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