July 2009 Indie Next List
“Rafael Yglesias tells the story of Enrique and Margaret Sabas, who is dying from cancer. The novel unfolds as we see her planning her goodbyes and death interspersed with the story of their courtship and long marriage. The novel captures the maturing of feelings, the issues around sex, and the frustrations of parenthood in such a way that I was riveted, entranced, and moved to -- and sometimes beyond -- tears. Absolutely brilliant.”
— Cathy Langer, Tattered Cover Bookstore, Denver, CO
Winter 2011 Reading Group List
“A Happy Marriage is deeply honest, intricately observed, and moving beyond words. In alternating the chapters between Enrique and Margaret's courtship and eventual marriage and the final days of Margaret's life, Yglesias shows the complexity of the relationship and the totality of what is lost with Margaret's fatal illness. Enrique's fears, foibles, and insecurities at the outset of their courtship are brilliantly set against the character he is forced to muster as he helps his wife die with dignity, on her own terms, and in her own home. This is a novel in which every emotion, character, and situation rings true.”
— Mark LaFramboise, Politics & Prose Books &, Washington, DC
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 gorgeous and moving story about a thirty- year marriage, inspired by his own relationship with his wife, who died in 2004.
Told from the husband’s point of view, with revelatory and sometimes disarming candor, A Happy Marriage is the story of Enrique Sabas and his wife Margaret, alternating between the first three weeks of their acquaintance (a comic and romantic misadventure) and the bittersweet final weeks of Margaret’s life as she says goodbye to her family, friends, and children. Laced throughout with intimate recollections of moments of crises and joy from the middle years of their relationship, the novel charts the ebb and flow of marriage, illuminating the mysteries and magic of marital love.
Neither sentimental nor cynical, and written with an intense devotion to character and emotional suspense, A Happy Marriage reveals a partnership that brings maturity and great pleasure to the lives of two people. Bold, elegiac, and stunningly vivid, A Happy Marriage will break every reader’s heart—and perhaps infuse some marriages with greater love.
"[A] devastatingly raw appraisal of a nearly 30-year marriage...heart-wrenching." -- Publishers Weekly
"Rafael Yglesias's 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
"A profound deliberation on the nature of love, marriage and the process of dying.... A tour de force... [Yglesias] has found the novel of his life." -- Dinitia Smith, New York Times
"Maybe marriage is the oldest story in the world, but in Mr. Yglesias' tender, funny, rueful telling, the lifelong relationship is the story of life itself." -- The Wall Street Journal
"Surprising and deeply affecting... A very brave book indeed." -- Nancy Connors, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)
"Brave ... instantly compelling." -- Scott Muskin, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"Beautiful... Yglesias is a superb and courageous writer.... [A] riveting portrait of enduring love, with all its grand imperfections." -- Karen Karbo, Bookforum
"Poignant and heartbreaking…. Anyone in a relationship will be able to relate.”—Craig Wilson, USA Today
“Enrique and Margaret are anything but common, distinct both as characters and in the endurance of their love.”—Malena Watrous, New York Times Book Review