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A Happy Marriage

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  2,265 ratings  ·  497 reviews
A stunningly candid and revelatory love story by an acclaimed novelist and screenwriter whose return to fiction after a long hiatus will be heralded by critics and readers.In the 1970s Yglesias’s first novels, written while he was a teenager, were hailed by critics as the arrival of a young American  genius.  A  Happy  Marriage,  his  first  novel  in thirteen years, is a ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published July 7th 2009 by Scribner (first published June 30th 2009)
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3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,265 ratings  ·  497 reviews

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Sep 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 05, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
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
Aug 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, ficción
Sintió alivio porque, a pesar de todos sus errores, sus fracasos, el desgaste que había provocado en los demás, todo el amor y buenas intenciones y grandes ambiciones que había aplastado y a las que había renunciado, todos sus errores, hubiera existido una misericordia inesperada y él no hubiera sido castigado. La vida le había dado a Margaret para que estuviera completo.
Esto dice en un momento dado Enrique, el protagonista de Un matrimonio feliz, recordándonos con ello la veracidad de la afirm
Sep 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
“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
Aug 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
May 15, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Sep 28, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Aug 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 21, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Dimitrios Diamantaras
Jul 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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...
Sep 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Apr 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 13, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Nov 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Beth Butler
Jun 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Lots of thoughts and thoughts and more thoughts about the very beginning and very end of a 30 year marriage. Way too much head space without any action and a failure to get the reader emotionally involved with the characters. We know the unlikable characters will get together and that Margaret will die in the end. There is too much repetition with the point that the main character dropped out of school to write a novel and that Margaret has blue eyes.
Reading about the author it seems as this no
Jun 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: bookgroup
Really a 3.5. I’m really torn up about this book, maybe it deserves higher because of the thoughts and emotions it brought up. I don’t know, because I found it really sad. It was pretty well written, a few awkward sentences that I had to read and re-read because they didn’t flow. I think it was pretty high on the realistic fiction scale. But overall just left me feeling SAD. Sometimes sad topics can bring you a sense of hope in the end. This one just didn’t.
Book Concierge
In this autobiographical novel, Yglesias explores a happy, if far from perfect, marriage primarily through the eyes of the husband, Enrique Sabas, as he faces his wife Margaret’s death. The novel opens with the 21-year-old Enrique being introduced to the two-or-three-years-older Margaret through a mutual friend, Bernard. Enrique is smitten, but knows this lovely creature is out of his league. He’s a high-school dropout; she studied at Cornell. The fact that he has already published two or three ...more
Jul 06, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Lisa Kearns
Jun 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Erika Nerdypants
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 24, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Sep 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 08, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
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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.
“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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