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“A Happy Marriage,” by Rafael Yglesias, is a novel with beautiful prose about a marriage in all its aspects.
Enrique meets Margaret when he is a 21-year-old high school dropout with two published novels. He has burned all his bridges by quitting school to pursue his passion for writing.
When he meets Margaret, all his insecurities erupt. His best friend tells him she is out of his league, and she is. She is in a league all her own with her smiling blue eyes and bubbly laughter. Like the characters in Philip Roth’s “Portnoy’s Complaint,” Enrique is wonderfully funny as he pursues Margaret while confronting all his neuroses.
He wins her, of course, and their 30-year marriage goes through the birth of two sons, poorly reviewed novels, money worries and their growing apart. Then Margaret is diagnosed with bladder cancer, and everything takes on a different perspective.
The novel jumps from the present to the past as the reader traces the course of their marriage. It is funny, sad, heartfelt and so true.
As the author writes, “He had come not only to need her but to love her more profoundly than ever: not as a trophy to be won, not as a competitor to defeat, not as a habit too long to break, but as a full partner, skin of his skin, head of his heart, and heart of his soul.” He was insecure and boyish when he met her. She has made him whole.
Now the only thing he can do for her is help her die as she has requested, at home with him. No more doctors and hospitals. No more life-prolonging therapies. Enrique is determined to do as she has requested. And the author manages to tell the plight of this mission with humor.
Rafael Yglesias, like the character in this novel, dropped out of school at 16, got published and married a Margaret when he was 21. His wife died in 2004. This novel is about life and marriage and love. His writing is beautiful, passionate and honest. And he has published another eight novels, waiting to be read.