A Happy Marriage: A Novel
4 out of 5: A Happy Marriage, Rafael Yglesias's most recent novel, chronicles the 29-year marriage of Enrique Sabas to Margaret Cohen in chapters alternating between the awkward beginnings of the romance and the weeks just prior to Margaret's untimely death from cancer. By constraining the story to its bookends (sprinkled with just a few events from the middle years), Yglesia gives himself room to write. The story captures the durability of this couple’s decades-long relationship, and, at the same time, progresses slowly through individual days, patiently layering details to create a nuanced world. This structure is a masterful solution to the problem of depicting a complex relationship without sacrificing either depth or length.
Each thread of this story offers its own rewards. The early thread is optimistic, often humorous, and strangely suspenseful, even though the outcome is predestined. The late thread is heartbreaking, filled with a morbid accounting of Margaret’s physical decline and the other unpleasant details of death, including a carefully managed schedule of last goodbyes. Yglesias's workmanlike prose focuses attention on the characters and maintains a quick pace without detracting from the unfolding tragedy. A Happy Marriage is a poignant portrayal of a relationship from its beginning to its end.