A Happy Marriage

A Happy Marriage

A Novel

  • reading group guide
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 about what it means for two people to spend a lifetime together -- and what makes a happy marriage.

Yglesias's career as a novelist began in 1970 when he wrote an autobiographical novel at sixteen, hailed by critics for its stunning and revelatory depiction of adolescence. A Happy Marriage, his first work of fiction in thirteen years, was inspired by his relationship with his wife, Margaret, who died in 2004. Bold, elegiac, and emotionally suspenseful, even though we know what happens, Yglesias's beautiful novel will break every reader's heart -- while encouraging all of us with its clear-eyed evocation of the enduring value of marriage.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 384 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439109816 | 
  • July 2009
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Reading Group Guide

A Happy Marriage
Rafael Yglesias

Description

A Happy Marriage is the story of Enrique Sabas and his wife, Margaret. It alternates between the early romance of the first three weeks of their acquaintance and the final weeks of Margaret’s life as she says goodbye to her family, friends, and children – and to Enrique. Spanning nearly thirty years, A Happy Marriage is an achingly honest book about what it means for two people to spend a lifetime together.

A Happy Marriage was inspired by Yglesias’ relationship with his wife, Margaret, who died in 2004. Bold, elegiac, and emotionally suspenseful, Yglesias’s beautiful novel will break every reader’s heart—while encouraging all of us with its clear-eyed evocation of the enduring value of marriage.

Questions and Topics for Discussion


  1. The chapters in A Happy Marriage alternate between the first few weeks of Enrique and Margaret’s relationship and twenty-nine years later, as Margaret is in the final weeks of her battle with cancer. Why do you think author Rafael Yglesias structured the novel in this way? How might your response to the novel be different if the timeline were linear?
  2. Enrique frequently mentions that he’s half Jewish and half Spanish. Do you believe his heritage influences him and how he interacts with others?
  3. “She was going to die and
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About the Author

Rafael Yglesias
Photograph by James Salzano

Rafael Yglesias

Rafael Yglesias is an American novelist and screenwriter. He dropped out of high school upon publication of his first novel in 1972 at age 17. He is the author of nine novels, including Dr. Neruda’s Cure For Evil and Fearless, which he adapted for the screen. He also wrote the screenplays for Death And The Maiden, Les Miserables, From Hell, and Dark Water. He has two grown sons and lives in New York’s Greenwich Village.

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Author Revealed

Q. how did you come to write A Happy Marriage?

A. I’ve been a writer my entire adult life. After the death of my wife of twenty-seven years, as part of the grieving process I found myself thinking about our marriage in a way I never dared, or could have while she was alive. After a few years of this reviewing and recollection of my marriage I realized that I could write about our life together with a frankness that would be cathartic for me, and might be useful for readers in thinking about their marriages. I chose to write it as a novel, and not as a memoir, because I wanted to preserve the frankness of my private thoughts and feelings while telling the story. I believe what William Dean Howells once put this way, “No man, unless he puts on the mask of fiction, can show his real face or the will behind it.” I doubt any human being is capable of writing with absolute honesty about himself—we are all too skilled at self-deception—but the sad combination of losing my wife and needing to go on with my work, led me to hope that by writing A Happy Marriage I could provide readers with an unusually intimate portrait of marriage from a man’s point of view.

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