Rafael Yglesias has written a novel based on his wife’s death from bladder cancer. In A Happy Marriage (Scribner, $26) he has fashioned a truthful and touching portrait of their marriage, as he alternates between the awkward courtship of Enrique Saba and Margaret Cohen and her dying twenty-some years later over a period of a few weeks. After three years, Margaret has asked to be allowed to die rather than continue the pain and misery of treatment for incurable and invasive cancer. While Enrique remembers the sweetness of their first few months, he says goodbye and helps Margaret say her goodbyes to her parents Dorothy and Leonard, the Sabas’ sons, and her best friend Lily. There is something endearing and absolutely true here about the relationship of husband and wife and adult children and parents. This is the kind of book that when you finish you want to go back and read it all over again.
In A Happy Marriage (Scribner, $26) Rafael Yglesias contrasts the first few months of Enrique Saba’s courtship of Margaret—clumsy, oafish, naïve—with their last three weeks together. After three years of painful treatment for invasive and incurable bladder cancer, Margaret asks to be allowed to die. As Enrique remembers the sweetness of the first few months of their relationship, he helps Margaret say her goodbyes to her parents, his parents, their beloved sons, and her best friend, Lily. There is something endearing and absolutely true about the relationship between husband and wife, between parents and college-age children, and between the adult children and their parents. Such events really did happen to Ygelsias, but that he is able to organize his experience, understand it, weave it into such a funny, sad, compelling human story for all of us to learn from is a tribute to his art.